Number of children in poverty has risen

Published 9:28 am Friday, June 1, 2012

Many parents consider Albert Lea generally a good place to raise children, but figures released this past week show some trends going in unwanted directions.

The number of children living in poverty in Freeborn County since 2000 has risen by 49 percent, according to the most recent available figures.

The sheer number of children living in poverty in Freeborn County in 2000 was 771. In 2010, the latest year available, it was 1,152.

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The county-by-county figures were released statewide Wednesday as part of the 2012 Kids Count databook, a look at statistics compiled by the Minnesota branch of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Looking at the figures in percentage is revealing, too. In 2010, 17.2 percent of children in Freeborn County lived in poverty. In 2000 there were 10 percent.

While the percentage of children in poverty in the county has increased, so has the percentage statewide. The state average in 2000 was 10 percent. In 2010, it reached 15 percent.

The report shows 2011 figures for children receiving free and reduced lunches in Freeborn County. They show an increase of 30 percent since 2000. There were 1,401 in 2000, and 1,817 for 2011, the latest figure for that statistic.

The number of children arrested for a serious crime in 2010 increased over 2009 but in general the number has dropped during the 2000s. There were 72 children arrested in Freeborn County in 2010, up from 43 in 2009 but down from 145 in 2000. In fact, the 2000s were dramatically down from the 1990s, when the figure generally was in the 100s and 200s. In most years of the 2000s, the number of children arrested was below 100. The year 2009 was a low point. The high point was 286 arrests in 1995.

The percentage of mothers who smoked during pregnancy in 2010 in Freeborn County was 16 percent, while the state’s average is 10 percent, according to the report. That’s a rise from the early part of the 2000s, when the county number hovered around 10 percent and the state average was about 11 percent. The county figure hit 15 percent starting in 2007.

The percentage of mothers who received late or inadequate prenatal care in 2010 has reached 3.5 percent, a level the county hadn’t seen since 2002. It had been as low as 1.9 percent in 2006. The state average for 2010 was 3.1 percent.

The number of mothers and children in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition supplemental program has risen steadily over the 2000s in Freeborn County. In 1999, it was 1,134. By 2005, it was 1,611. In 2010, it reached 1,989.

Freeborn County remains above the state average for students graduating from high school in four years. The county percentage is 75. The state is 74.8.


About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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