The Worst of Times: Children in Extreme Poverty in the South and Nation

In 2008, 5.7 million children were living in extreme poverty – subsisting on half or less than what constitutes poverty in this country, or a daily income of no more than $7 to $8 to cover food, clothing  and living expenses for each member of a family.

Of the millions of children affected, an unusually large portion – about 42 percent – was concentrated in the 15 South states, according to this new report from the Southern Education Foundation examined.  The report traces the poorest of Southern rural communities – called “Black Belt” counties – to their origins as cotton-growing plantations, which became towns. The report describes the lack of educational opportunities for children living under such conditions, which the authors believe should be a major concern of state governments.

The authors suggest that educators and policymakers adopt an “extreme child poverty impact assessment,” which should evaluate how major changes in public education may adversely affect the disadvantaged and provide alternative programs to reduce these potential impacts. The aim of these efforts is for schools that can provide safe and meaningful environments for children to develop in, bringing them a step closer to ultimately exiting poverty.

 “It is the least the richest nation in the world, even in the worst of times, can do for the least among us,” the report states.

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