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Detroit kids the poorest

Millions of U.S. children live in poverty

Published Mar 1, 2012 9:53 PM

The Kids Count report on child poverty in the United States was released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on Feb. 23. Despite claims in the media and by the government lately that “jobs are being added,” “unemployment is down” and “the economy continues to recover,” the situation is extremely bleak for a huge, vulnerable section of the population.

The report used U.S. Census Bureau data and determined that the number of children in the U.S. living in poor communities went up 25 percent from 2000 to 2010. Eight million children lived in poor communities in 2010, an increase of 1.6 million from 2000.

Three-quarters of these children had at least one parent working at a job, although at wages insufficient to pull the family out of poverty. A poor community is one where 30 percent or more of the population is living in poverty, which means surviving on roughly $22,000 per year or less for a family of four.

Of course, it is still a struggle for a family of four — or any size — to survive on $22,000 in yearly income. Low wages or income must purchase housing (rent or mortgage with required taxes and insurance), food, heat and other utilities, transportation, child care, clothing, medical care, tuition and education-related expenses and other necessities of life. Under capitalism these are commodities to be bought and sold at a profit, instead of guaranteed human rights.

Detroit has worst child poverty

According to the report, Detroit has the dismal distinction of having the worst child poverty in the country. A staggering 67 percent of Detroit children live in high-poverty neighborhoods, more than in any other of the largest 50 cities in the U.S. That is 10 percent more than the next worst city, Cleveland, where 57 percent of children live in poor communities. (Detroit News, Feb. 23)

Detroit, a majority African-American city, lost 25 percent of its population from 2000 to 2010 due in large measure to the home foreclosure epidemic caused by the racist, predatory banks and their sub-prime mortgage schemes aimed at oppressed communities. Vast sections of the city are littered with vacant, abandoned and vandalized homes where once-thriving neighborhoods used to be.

The official unemployment rate for Detroit residents is more than 28 percent. If discouraged and part-time workers are included, it is at least 44 percent. Mayor Dave Bing has admitted he thought joblessness in the city was closer to 50 percent.

Tens of thousands in Detroit have had their water cut off. Thousands of city workers face wage cuts, layoffs and speed ups while dozens of schools are closed and services for city residents are pared to the bone.

An emergency manager takeover is threatened for the city because of the fiscal crisis caused by the banks and their usurious debt servicing. Imposition of an emergency manager will not improve conditions for the children or any residents of Detroit. Instead, it will trigger an automatic default by the city, with $400 million due immediately to the banks.

Even prior to the current crisis, the city was already hard hit by the racist deindustrialization of the auto industry, which closed virtually every auto plant in the Motor City and drove employment, wages and union membership sharply downward.

Some 1 million industrial jobs were lost in Michigan between 2000 and 2010.

Michigan’s homeless children

These job cuts by the auto giants and other corporations, along with the predatory lending of the banks and financial institutions, have created a crisis of survival for tens of thousands in Detroit and many more around the state.

Some 40,000 people in the state, including an estimated 15,000 children, were recently cut off from welfare cash assistance. Unemployment benefits in Michigan end after just 20 weeks.

The report says Michigan’s share of children in high-poverty neighborhoods rose from 8 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2006-2010. (Associated Press, Feb. 23) There were 341,000 Michigan children in impoverished neighborhoods in 2010, about 124,000 more than in 2000, or a 57 percent increase.

Many of the state’s children are homeless. According to a four-part series in the Detroit Free Press, “In the 2010-11 school year, more than 31,000 homeless students attended school — 8,500 more than in the previous school year, a 37 percent spike attributed to the weak economy, loss of jobs and the foreclosure crisis. Overall, the number of homeless students in Michigan has jumped more than 300 percent in the last four years.” (freep.com, Dec. 18)

These homeless students and their families live not just in Detroit, but in its suburbs, and in Flint, Grand Rapids and other cities, as well as in small towns and rural areas all over the state. The “lucky” ones have moved into cramped quarters with relatives; others live in the woods and in makeshift dwellings. The problems they face as students and growing children are immense and cruel, with long-lasting effects.

Increasing child poverty and homelessness are what the capitalist system offers the youngest and most vulnerable members of society, even in the richest country on earth.