Fewer Florida Children Live In Poor Neighborhoods, Study Says

Sep 25, 2019
Originally published on September 25, 2019 8:42 am

The percentage of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods in Florida has decreased 8 percent since the Great Recession, according to a new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Still, one in nine Florida children live in neighborhoods that don’t provide access to healthy food, good schools or quality medical care.

The study compared four year periods between 2008 and 2017. It found 459,000 children living in high-poverty neighborhoods between 2013 and 2017, compared to 496,000 during the prior four years.

The economy expanded during the second study period, which pushed more people out of poverty. Also, some of the impoverished neighborhoods in Florida became gentrified as the economy improved.

Though gentrification can push poor people from their neighborhoods, it can be beneficial when done right, said Scot Spencer, associate director for advocacy and influence at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We have to do it in a way that is also inclusive,” Spencer said. “And make sure that those kids that are living in those neighborhoods have the ability to stay and thrive in those neighborhoods and have the same access to opportunity that every other kid deserves.”

The study found that African American and American Indian children are seven times more likely than white children to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. Latino children are five times more likely than their white counterparts.

High-poverty neighborhoods are defined in the study as census tracks with an overall poverty rate of 30 percent or higher.

Children in those neighborhoods generally lack access to services and face more exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality or lead. They are also exposed to greater levels of stress due to fear of violence and financial concerns, according to the study.

However, the study says there are things that state and local governments can do to improve outcomes in these communities. 

Spencer said the foundation focused on two areas: access to housing and jobs.

Job training is important but the study says that governments should also provide incentives to large employers to hire, contract with and purchase locally from women and minorities. 

Universities in Florida, such as Florida International University in Miami, are taking the lead by creating jobs for people who live in high-poverty neighborhoods, Spencer said.

“There are some universities in Florida that are thinking about how they use the large number of dollars that they have to buy services or provide contracting opportunities to focus in on hiring people from their neighborhoods,” he said.

Spencer says local and state governments can help with housing by preserving and creating affordable housing and reducing property taxes in poor neighborhoods.

“You can make small or large adjustments in your practices or policies that create opportunities for people in your communities to be able to get those jobs that pay better wages or to create policies that eliminate the barriers to housing opportunities,” Spencer said.

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