“Family income is now nearly as strong a predictor of children’s achievement as is parental education.”
—Annie E. Casey Foundation
A household’s economic well-being has a far reaching impact on the life of a child. Growing up poor is one of the greatest threats to a child’s ability to thrive in school and beyond. In addition to the social impact of poverty, these issues can result in significant added financial costs to the education, healthcare and criminal justice systems.
Indicator 1: Poverty
Why is this important? Poverty is intrinsically linked to many other social problems, such as dropping out of school, inadequate housing, food insecurity, poor health, chronic behavioral problems, unemployment and crime. Until communities can address poverty, the associated issues will likely continue.
How is the region doing? From 2000 to 2010, the percent of the region’s, the state’s and the nation’s population living in poverty held fairly steady, but all increased after the Great Recession. In 2014, an estimated 135,000 people were living in poverty ($24,300 for a family of four) in South Hampton Roads. With the region’s average cost of living estimated at $65,000, these families are clearly unable to cover the basics needs such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.
Indicator 2: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)
Why is this important? Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, is one of several Safety Net programs that help low-income households cover the cost of food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that food security means “people have access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.” A community can assess its food security through proxy measures including the number of residents receiving food stamps, Foodbank distributions and the number of children receiving free and reduced price lunches.
How is the region doing? As poverty has increased in the region since the 2008 Great Recession, so has the need for safety net programs that help families make ends meet. The number of persons receiving food stamps more than doubled from 72,000 in 2003 to over 157,000 in 2014, reflecting an increased need for food security in the region, however, cuts to the program in 2015 resulted in over 10,000 people losing this vital benefit.