Our latest report, Creating a Prosperous Future, goes into more depth on each of these points. But for now, here are the five things you need to know about poverty in Arkansas.
- Poverty is defined by the federal poverty guidelines (FPL) and determines if a family can make ends meet based on their earnings. The FPL is woefully out of date and does not take into account the spending requirements of today’s families. Because these guidelines are so antiquated, many more families struggle to meet their basic needs than are counted using poverty alone.
- Poverty has many causes including a lack of education and skills to bring to the work force, a family’s geographic location, a lack of community support, family structure (specifically the number of earners in a family impacts the ability to make ends meet), incarceration, and income inequality.
- More than half of all Arkansas children live in a household that struggles financially. Children of color are more likely to live in poverty, but the number of white children in poverty is much higher than African-American and Hispanic children. Poverty impacts the entire state but does see areas of concentration, especially in the Delta.
- Children in poverty experience additional problems in educational and cognitive development, health outcomes, social and emotional development and are more likely to live in poverty as adults. These complications have long-term impacts on the child’s success in later life.
- In order to overcome poverty, Arkansas needs to focus on policies that help poor children succeed academically and improve their odds at getting an education. We should also look at policies that increase household income and make sure that families can meet their basic needs.