Child Poverty Up in 96 of Top 100 School Districts Since 2007, Census Says

The child poverty rate rose during the recession in 1 of every 5 counties across the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau said today.

The increase in poverty between 2007 and 2010 was especially pronounced in the nation’s largest school systems, where 96 of the top 100 districts reported growth in the number of poor children, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Census Bureau tracks school district poverty rates for the U.S. Department of Education, which uses the data to direct federal funding to poor schools. The figures also are used to determine the places where poor children’s test scores must be reported separately under the No Child Left Behind Act, which can affect school funding and personnel.

The government sets the poverty level at $22,113 for a four-person household that includes two people under 18.

Lee County, Florida, reported the greatest increase in poor students during the recession. The proportion of poor children in the district, whose population includes about 90,000 children, almost doubled to 25.3 percent.

The Detroit City School District, which was the poorest in the nation in 2007, remained at the bottom in 2010. The bureau reported 47.2 percent of the 139,300 children in the nation’s ninth-largest district are poor, a 20 percent increase from 2007.

The nation’s largest school district -- New York City, with an estimated 1.25 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 -- reported a rise in poverty to 29 percent in 2010, up from 26.6 percent in 2007.

School districts in Cherry Creek, Colorado; El Paso, Texas; Mobile, Alabama; and Seattle reported decreases. The Cherry Creek district in suburban Denver had 11 percent fewer poor students in 2010, with a child poverty rate of 8.6 percent.

Almost one-quarter of the 13,619 districts in the nation have 20,000 or more students. Those districts contain 81.6 percent of poor children, the Census Bureau said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Frank Bass in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Flynn McRoberts in Chicago at

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