Idaho has seen little change in the number of children living in concentrated poverty since the Great Recession a decade ago, despite a long period of economic expansion, according to new data. The Annie E. Casey Foundation looked at neighborhoods where poverty rates are 30% or higher and found 8.5 million children nationwide lived in these areas between 2013 and 2017.

The percentage of Idaho kids in concentrated poverty dropped from 5% between 2008 and 2012 to 4% between 2013 and 2017. But Idaho Voices for Children director, Lauren Necochea said this slight drop hides other trends in the state.

“Thirty years ago, only 1% of children living in rural Idaho were in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. That figure has jumped to 5%,” Necochea said. “And while this is still a small share of our children, the trend is concerning - especially when our economy overall is quite strong.”

Necochea also noted the overall number of children in poverty in Idaho - standing at about 67,000 in 2017 - is cause for concern. As Idaho’s population continues to grow rapidly, she said it will be important to make sure families aren’t pushed out to make way for that growth.

Scot Spencer, associate state director of advocacy with the Casey Foundation, said growing up in a high-poverty neighborhood affects practically every part of a child’s life. They tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care, often face greater exposure to environmental hazards and can experience higher levels of chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Spencer added when these children grow up, they are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty.

“Living in high poverty neighborhoods puts young people at risk,” Spencer said. “And we think that they really deserve to live in communities where they can learn, play, and grow.”

The Casey Foundation report offered some remedies, including property-ownership models that preserve affordable housing and ensuring all neighborhoods have quality schools, access to job opportunities, reliable transportation and safe places for recreation.

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