Child poverty map demonstrates need for more state investment in economic opportunity

Ben Horowitz
Feb 13, 2015

Poverty is more common among Minnesota children than adults, and child poverty is highest in rural counties. This information is presented visually in our project with Catholic Charities of St. Paul and MinneapolisMapping Minnesota’s Future to Shared Opportunities.

According to the Census, 14.3 percent of Minnesota’s children lived in poverty in 2012, compared to an adult poverty rate of 10.2 percent. The child poverty rate ranged from 5.9 percent in Scott County to 43.1 percent in Mahnomen County. Child poverty rates could not be calculated for seven counties due to a lack of data.

Rural counties’ child poverty rates (16.7 percent on average) were higher than those of urban counties (12.6 percent on average). Of the 12 counties where at least 20 percent of children live in poverty, only two were metropolitan.

What makes a county rural? The federal Office of Management and Budget labels 27 Minnesota counties as metropolitan because they have a “high degree of social and economic integration” with urban areas of 50,000 or more people. These “metropolitan statistical areas” include 14 counties in the Twin Cities region, and another 10 counties around regional centers like Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud. They also include Polk, Clay and Houston counties, which are part of the Grand Forks, Fargo and La Crosse metros, respectively. The 60 other Minnesota counties are considered rural.

Poverty can harm a child’s overall well-being regardless of where they live. For example, when parents don’t earn enough for stable housing or child care, a child’s academic performance and social development can suffer.

This session, Minnesota policymakers can create more opportunities for families to move toward greater economic security. Examples include:

  • Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance helps families pay for child care so that parents can go to school or work while their children receive stable care. But more funding for Basic Sliding Fee is needed: more than 6,000 Minnesota families are on the waiting list for assistance.
  • Policymakers can also act so that more workers can earn sick and safe time so that they don’t lose wages or their jobs when they take the time to care for themselves or for sick family members.

Our child poverty map depicts a clear statewide need for policies like these that support the whole family. Whether they live in Mahnomen or Scott county, every family should have the opportunity for improved economic well-being.

-Ben Horowitz