23,000 Rhode Island Children Live In Extreme Poverty

Monday, May 13, 2013


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Latest statistics show that 23,000 Rhode Island children under the age of eighteen lived in extreme poverty in 2012. Overall twenty-two percent (22%) or more than 47,000 of Rhode Island’s 215,484 children were living below the federal poverty threshold, an increase of 2.6 percent over prior years.

Rhode Island Kids Count extreme poverty numbers

In comparison, between 2009 and 2011, 19.4 percent or 42,550 of Rhode Island’s 219,479 children under age 18 with known poverty status lived in households below the threshold.

In 2012, 21.9 percent of Rhode Island’s children lived in poverty, representing a steady rise from 15.5 percent in 2008.The numbers provided by Rhode Island Kids Count and the U.S. Census American Community Survey (ACS) examined state specific numbers over a period of five years.

“Factors responsible for the high poverty rate include widening income inequality, high unemployment, and lack of affordable housing,” said Karen Jeffries, Associate Director at the Rhode Island Homeless Coalition.

Almost two-thirds of Rhode Island’s children living in extreme poverty reside in the four major cities of Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket and Central Falls.

  • Providence - 7,418 in extreme poverty (18.0% ); 15,428 in poverty (37.3%)
  • Pawtucket -   1,881 in extreme poverty (11.5%);    4,790 in poverty (29.4%) 
  • Woonsocket- 1,583 in extreme poverty (15.9%);   3,572 in poverty (35.8%)

In 2012, the extreme poverty level was $9,249 for a family of three with two children and $11,642 for a family of four with two children.

"There is no better indicator on poverty in Rhode Island than that of the number of families entering the homeless shelter system. There was more than a 12% rise in families experiencing homelessness from 2011 to 2012. In the first quarter of 2013," said Jim Ryczek, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. "Rhode Island has seen more than a 30% rise in families when compared to the same period of 2012. Clearly, policies to increase affordable housing options to help families must be enacted. The state's plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors RI, calls for $3.25 million for just that purpose."

The Economic Progress Institute published the Rhode Island Standard of Need (RISN). According to the organization’s website, the RISN calculates a household’s budget for a family with two young children, and for single adults. The budget includes only the basic costs for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care. It also includes basic human needs such as clothing, toiletries and telephone service.

The 2012 Rhode Island Standard of Need calculation showed a single-parent family with two children needing $49,272 a year to meet its basic needs, far more than the federal poverty level for a family of three set at $18,498 for 2012. The annual earned income needed to meet that level of expense was calculated at $57,540. Expenses for a two-parent family were shown at $54,024 with annual earned income needed of $61,980.

From 2009-2011, Rhode Island’s poverty numbers were 39,900 (17.9%) children living in poverty with 18,161 (8.1%) living in extreme poverty. Between 2009 and 2011, of all children living in poverty in Rhode Island, almost half (49%) were White, 16% were Black, 4% were Asian, 1% were Native American, 21% were some other race, and 8% were two or more races.

Key socio-economic identifiers affecting Rhode Island’s at risk children in poverty, as pinpointed by RI Kids Count, were children under the age of six, children of single parents, children of parents with decreased education and children whose parents worked part-time or were unemployed.

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Correlation to affordable housing

In 2012, an average worker would have to earn $22.62 per hour to be able to afford the average rent in Rhode Island. Minimum wage, set at $7.40 for 2012, is one third of the estimated hourly wage necessary to support adequate and affordable housing. According to the Rhode Island Homeless Coalition, 1,277 Rhode Island children stayed in homeless shelters with their families in 2012. That figure was up 17 percent from 2011.

Point in time homless count

The Point-in-Time Count, an indicator of homelessness in Rhode Island, conducted every January, tallies who is homeless on a given night providing a snapshot of who experiences homelessness throughout the year.
The latest count showed a 16.9 percent increase in homeless children from 1,092 in 2011 to 1,277 in 2012. There was also a 12.6 percent increase in homeless families from 602 in 2011 to 678 in 2012.

According to Jeffries, the Point-in-Time Count is a one-day, statistically reliable, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families in the state.

“Those Rhode Islanders that are still experiencing the economic downturn, the underemployed and the unemployed, have begun to run out of resources and that, combined with cut backs in state and federal funding, leads to more homelessness and poverty,” said Jeffries.

“We hear so much about economic recovery but if you look at our numbers you can honestly say Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness aren’t seeing any recovery,” said Ryczek,  in a written statement. “Sadly, the state’s financial response has not kept up with the need. In the past five years we have witnessed a 24% increase in Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness but the funding has not kept up with the need. This legislative session we can reverse that trend and begin to address the problem by supporting this important legislation.”

Partnering with the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition

Ryczek and his organization are teaming up with the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to fight poverty and advocate for increased access to affordable housing. Advocacy groups are joining together today at Rhode Island College for the fifth annual RI Interfaith Coalition conference, entitled "Reducing Poverty Builds Economic Prosperity.”

"We are pleased to join the RI Interfaith Coalition at today's conference to address poverty in our state,” said Ryczek. “We appreciate the support of the Interfaith Coalition which has made our bills one of their legislative priorities for this session.”

The companion bills, heard in the House (H5554) and Senate (S494), request that the legislature allocate $3.25 million for rental vouchers, supportive housing and emergency winter shelter costs.


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