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Editorial: Child poverty rate a statewide problem

Editorial: Child poverty rate a statewide problem

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Some interesting facts about children living in poverty in Nevada came to light recently with the publication of the annual Kids Count Data Book.

We took a closer look at the data after Barrick Gold Corp. announced this week that it was committing $1.2 million to Communities In Schools of Nevada. Part of the money will go toward programming at Adobe Middle School in Elko, while the remainder is designated for the Marvin M. Sedway Middle School in North Las Vegas.

According to information from Barrick, 40 percent of students at the Elko school are living below the poverty level, which is less than half of the 85 percent at the North Las Vegas school.

Both of these numbers are alarmingly high, and are up from prior years.

According to the Nevada Kids Count Data Book, the percentage of children living in poverty soared from 15 percent in 2008 to 21.3 percent in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available. The book is published by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Elko County has the lowest rate, 11.2 percent. That compares with 22.2 percent in Clark County, 20.4 percent in Washoe, and the highest rate of 27.8 in Nye County. The national rate is 21.6 percent.

The higher numbers correlate with the recession, of course. The Kids Count report includes a special essay on how the housing meltdown has affected Southern Nevada.

What is surprising about the data is that despite child poverty being on the rise, all of the other indicators for child well-being showed improvement.

Over the same two-year period, the infant, child and teen death rates have declined; the teen birth rate is down; and fewer students dropped out of high school.

It’s nice to see these indicators improve, especially during a time of increasing poverty. Programs like Communities In Schools, to which Barrick Gold Corp. recently committed $1.2 million in funding, must be making a difference in the lives of Nevada’s disadvantaged children.

Elko is fortunate to have low unemployment — about half the statewide and Clark County rates — and higher than average household income ($66,000, compared with about $50,000 nationally and $51,000 in Clark County). But these numbers reflect the median levels only, while most families in our county are really earning higher and lower amounts.

No matter how you crunch the numbers, it’s the people behind them who count.

That’s why programs like Communities In Schools, and supporters like our local mining companies, are working so hard to see that all children have a chance to benefit from their education and make it to their graduation.


Members of the Elko Daily Free Press editorial board are John Pfeifer, Jeffry Mullins and Marianne Kobak McKown.


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