The characteristics of Minnesota's poor children changed dramatically during the 1980s, a new Population Note from Minnesota Planning shows. "The majority of Minnesota's poor children are white and live outside the Twin Cities, but that's not where the growth is occurring," said Planning Director Linda Kohl.
Analyzing trends in child poverty between 1979 and 1989, the report found the largest growth in child poverty occurring among minority children and in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Child poverty also grew in many Twin Cities suburbs and in cities in other parts of the state, such as Duluth, Rochester, Moorhead and Mankato.
"The alarming growth in child poverty during the 1980s underscores the need to act quickly on welfare reform," Governor Arne H. Carlson said. "We must make working more profitable than welfare and give families the support they need to work themselves out of poverty. We must undo current laws that are anti-work and anti-family." To accomplish this, Carlson announced recently Minnesota Works, a proposal for overhauling Minnesota's welfare system.
The growing number of children living in single-parent families was one reason for the rise in child poverty. Not only are more children living with a single parent, but single-parent families are more likely to be poor than they used to be. Increased poverty among single-parent families may be tied to the growth in childbearing by unmarried women, the report says.
The number of children of never-married mothers was found by other studies to have a striking relationship to poverty. But having a father in the home was no guarantee against poverty, however, especially for minority children, the Population Note says. For example, the poverty rate for father-present Asian families with children was 30 percent.
Overall, between 1979 and 1989, the number of poor Minnesota children grew from 117,967 to 142,202, and the child poverty rate went from 10.2 percent to 12.4 percent. While the rate increase follows a national trend, child poverty in Minnesota remains below the national average of 17.9 percent.
Minnesota's minority children are very disadvantaged economically relative to white children, the report shows. Nonwhite children in Minnesota have very high poverty rates compared to their counterparts in other states. For example, Asian or Pacific Islander children in Minnesota have the third highest poverty rate in the country, American Indian children the fourth highest, and African American children the seventh highest. Poverty rates for Minnesota white children, in contrast, are well below the average for white children in most other states.