The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 7, 2012

Child poverty on the rise, state report shows

Clinton County’s rate slightly higher than state average

CLINTON — The number of children living in poverty has increased in all 99 Iowa counties in the past decade, pointing the members of a state public policy group and local officials to the recent economic downturn and what it means for children’s well-being.

The annual Iowa Kids Count report shows in 2010, 16.2 percent of Iowa children lived below the poverty line. This is an increase from 2000 when 10.8 percent of Iowa children faced poverty.  The report also details achievement scores in math and English, which are on the rise, food assistance rates, and several health factors affecting children.  

The child poverty rate in Clinton County as a whole sits slightly higher than the statewide average, at 18.7 percent, up from 12.8 percent in 2000. Clinton County did, however, fare better than some Iowa Counties including Black Hawk, Davis, Decatur, Lucas, Ringgold, Van Buren and Wayne Counties where more than one in four children lived in poverty.  

While Clinton County was not apparently as hard hit as others in child poverty, data shows it surpassing the state average on students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Statewide, 38.2 percent of children are eligible to receive this aid, as are 41.1 percent of students in Clinton County. The percentage of eligible students is higher in the city of Clinton itself, with approximately 60 percent of students meeting the criteria to receive free or reduced lunch, according to Superintendent Deb Olson.

It’s a figure that doesn’t surprise Iowa Kids Count Director Michael Crawford.

“I hate to say I’m not surprised, but I’m not. The main cities in small urban counties are typically over 50 or 60 percent,” he said.  

According to Crawford, the students who qualify for free or reduced lunch might not be below the poverty line, but most likely hover around it, causing some uncertainty about the availability of their next meal.

“If you’re sitting in class and you’re worried about your next meal you’re not concentrating on the lesson,” Crawford said.

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