Voices’ Blog

New data shows gains overall for Virginia, but low-income families still live on the edge of poverty

Posted:  -  By: S. Beth Nolan

The U.S. Census Bureau just released the 2017 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-Year estimates. The survey covers 40+ topics such as poverty status, educational attainment, occupation, language spoken at home, ancestry, and selected monthly homeowner costs.  It gives us a sense of how people in our state and across the country are doing so that we can measure what progress has and has not been made to ensure economic prosperity and mobility for this generation and future ones.

The good news is that Virginia outperforms the country, on average, across median household income and percent of people below poverty, indicating that we are moving in the right direction as we work collectively toward better outcomes for all Virginians.

But there is still progress to be made. Child poverty rates continue to stagnate in Virginia. The newly released data shows that 14% of children 0-17 years old live in poverty. Young children (under age 5) are more likely to live in poverty than any other age group in the commonwealth. 1 in every 3 individuals in Virginia who live in poverty is a child.

A family of 4 (1 parent and 3 children or 2 parents and 2 children) must have made less than $24,600 in 2017 to be considered poor. Yet, we at Voices know that families who live on the edge of that line still cannot make ends meet. A family who makes twice that amount is still faced every day with difficult decisions about whether to put food on the table or pay the heating bill. We must support all families, including low-income families, to ensure that every child in Virginia has the opportunity to succeed.

This is an exciting year for child well-being in Virginia. The commonwealth has a number of unique policy opportunities –from increases in child care subsidies to the revamping of the child welfare system to be more prevention focused –that will help to ensure economic and family stability for children and their families. Voices is deeply involved in shaping Virginia’s response to these opportunities, ensuring the data informs the policy decisions and the voice of children are represented every step of the way.

*Visit the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder or use the Census API to dive into Virginia’s data and explore the estimates. Or, reach out to me, Voices KIDS COUNT Director, at beth@vakids.org talk more about what the numbers mean for children.

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