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Health

3 Graphs Showing Colorado’s Improvements In Childhood Poverty, Health Coverage

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Juhan Sonin
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Flickr - Creative Commons

The number of children living in poverty in Colorado has gone down for the second year in a row, while health insurance coverage in the younger generation is the highest it’s ever been.

According to federal census data, almost 17 percent of Colorado children lived in poverty in 2013. By the following year it had dropped by 2 percent, a significant decline. It’s been a year since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the percentage of children in Colorado without health care hit 5.6 percent in 2014, improving three percentage points from 2013.

Childhood Poverty Declined, Reasons Tough To Pinpoint

“We do know that child poverty tracks closely with the unemployment rate and so the fact that Colorado has seen very significant declines in its unemployment rate particularly in comparison to the rest of the nation I think does have to do with the decline we saw in the number of kids living in poverty,” said Sarah Hughes, the research director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign.

The child poverty rate dropped across all racial demographics, Hughes said, however children of color are still the most vulnerable, compared to their white peers.

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Credit Colorado Children's Campaign
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Colorado Children's Campaign
According to federal census data, almost 17 percent of Colorado children lived in poverty in 2013. By the following year it had dropped by 2 percent, a significant decline.

The federal government defines poverty as an annual income of just under $24,000 for a family of four.

“Most people would agree that that number is way too low for what it takes for a family to make ends meet,” Hughes said. “So the poverty measure does have some flaws, but right now it is the best data that we have on families struggling economically.”

The statewide data does not shed any light on geographically where the children in poverty are concentrated in the state. Hughes thinks that based on past data an educated guess would be the rural and urban areas of the state.

“Historically in Colorado many of our rural areas have had some of the highest child poverty rates in the state… and that’s tended to be more of the generational poverty verses poverty that is happening as a result of the recession.” Hughes said. “Urban areas like Denver also tend to have higher poverty rates.”

Even with the decline about 190,000 children in Colorado live in poverty.

One discouraging piece of news was that the number of children in extreme poverty – families earning $12,000 or less a year for a family of four - went up.

“It’s really the poorest of the poor…It’s showing us that this recovery that Colorado is experiencing really hasn’t reached the poorest kids in our state. We need to continue to think about how to support our poorest families so they are feeling the effects of the recovery as well.”

More Colorado Children Have Health Insurance Than Ever Before

The drop in the rate of uninsured children in Colorado has been dramatic. A new analysis of Census data found that in six years the uninsured rate dropped 8.4 percent.

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Credit Colorado Children's Campaign
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Colorado Children's Campaign
Colorado is on par with the national average of uninsured children, at 6 percent.

Children in middle class families, which the subsidies target, seem to be paying off, according to Hughes.

“Roughly the group that is now eligible for subsidies in the insurance marketplace posted the greatest gains of any socioeconomic group and the uninsured rate for these kids dropped from about 9 percent in 2013 to about 5 percent in 2014,” she said.

Hughes found that the insured rate went up across all races and ethnicities, but particularly African-American children in Colorado, which dropped to only 2 percent.

“We really did see some of our most vulnerable groups of kids experiencing really great gains in health coverage.”

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Credit Colorado Children's Campaign
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Colorado Children's Campaign
The insured rate went up across all races and ethnicities but particularly African-American children in Colorado, which dropped to only 2 percent.

The Census data reiterated an ongoing trend of increased health coverage among children in Colorado following the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A trend that Hughes expects will continue.

“We have some additional data from the Colorado health access survey that covers the first few months of 20156 and that shows that 2.5 percent of kids were uninsured... I think it does provide us with an early indication that we’ll see more and more kids get covered as families get more and more familiar with the health insurance marketplace and the changes under the Affordable Care Act.”

The state is on par with the national average of uninsured children, at 6 percent.

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