Poverty rate among Colorado children takes big jump, report says

The last decade has seen an alarming increase in the number of Colorado children living in poverty, according to a study released Tuesday by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Colorado Children’s Campaign. While the study finds an 85 percent rise in the number of poor children from 2000 to 2007, the study’s authors warn “[t]he current economic downturn will exacerbate what already are troubling trends in Colorado — namely, that too many children in the state live in poverty and these numbers are growing rapidly.”

The study found 87,000 more children living in poverty across the state in 2007 than in 2000, but points out the growth is not evenly spread across Colorado: “[T]he fastest growth is taking place in the Denver metro area; while many of the state’s rural communities have endured high rates of persistent poverty.”

The highest percentage of impoverished Colorado children reside in rural Saguache County, where 45.6 percent fall under the poverty line, according to the study, but metro-area Adams and Arapahoe counties saw tremendous increases between 2000 and 2007. Childhood poverty in Adams County jumped by 106 percent — adding 12,377 children to the ranks — and rates climbed by 172 percent in Arapahoe County, with an additional 11,215 children considered poor.

Among many measures, the study distills changes in free-lunch eligibility by school district from 2000 to 2007:

Changes in eligibility for free lunches by school district, 200-2007 (Image/Colorado Children's Campaign)
Changes in eligibility for free lunches by school district, 200-2007 (Image/Colorado Children's Campaign)


Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien pinned some of the increase on a lack of affordable child care.

“Colorado is not as hard hit as other states, but it’s hitting children particularly hard,” O’Brien told The Associated Press. O’Brien was president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign from 1990 until she stepped down to run for lieutenant governor in 2006.

Single parents pay roughly 50 percent of their income on child care, said Colorado Children’s Campaign director Chris Watney, who noted Colorado ranks eighth in the nation in child-care costs. On average, it costs $9,765 for a year’s worth of day care for a 4-year old, Watney said.

Watney said the state had more than 192,000 children living in poverty in 2007, compared to 104,000 at the beginning of the decade.

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