By Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) African Americans are roughly 13 percent of the population in the United States, but according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, black children are the group most likely to be living in poverty.READ MORE: Detroit Police Department To Host Drive-Up Candy Stations On Oct. 31 At All Precincts
As the poverty rate declined for white and Hispanic children, it rose for black children, per Pew. Overall, there are 4.2 million impoverished black children and 4.1 million white kids.
“Black children were almost four times as likely as white or Asian children to be living in poverty in 2013, and significantly more likely than Hispanic children,” the report said.
Poverty is defined as a household with an annual income of $23,624 or less. The study found 38 percent of black children fall into this, compared to 20 percent of white kids.
Locally the numbers are even more dramatic, with 60 percent of black children in poverty in Detroit, according to Kurt Metzger, a longtime metro Detroit data expert. About 83 percent of the city’s residents are black.
In Michigan overall, 48.2 percent of African American children live in poverty, compared to 32 percent of Hispanic kids and 17 percent of white children, Metzger said.
Why are the numbers so high for black children? Metzger blames neighborhoods so long enmeshed in poverty that generations of African Americans haven’t had the tools or opportunity to thrive.
“I could easily start talking about structural racism and other issues like that, but it’s a concentration of African American populations in households where poverty tends to be concentrated,” Metzger said, adding that opportunity requires access to good schools and jobs with healthy food nearby.
And for black children, many live in “low or very low opportunity neighborhoods,” Metzger said, adding, “It’s a little bit less for Latina families. It’s just the opposite for white and Asian, they tend to live in neighborhoods with opportunity.”
For black kids, especially in Detroit, he said the jobs have left, the good schools have left, there’s poor transportation, high insurance rates, and difficulty getting reasonably good paying jobs.
He says early childhood education is the key to helping kids from low-income families change their lives, which includes improving language skills from a very early age.READ MORE: Metro Detroit Woman Files Lawsuit Against Walmart, Says Discriminated Against By Managers
“They just start behind and never catch up,” Metzger said of black kids.
And the tendency, many agree, seems to be to blame the people who fail to rise out of poverty for not becoming educated enough or not working hard enough to succeed.
Instead of blaming the victim, we need to address how to fix these issues from a structural perspective, Metzger said.
“You keep seeing those numbers and it doesn’t seem to get better, but we talk about it a lot,” he said. “It’s very startling when you state more African American kids are in poverty than white kids. That’s a startling fact. Most of our core cities, we see that same kind of trend and it’s just, it begs the question of: “Do we really want to do something about this? Are we going to do something about this? Those kinds of things are very critical if we’re going to turn things around.”
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