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Monday, September 26, 2011 - 11:32am

Minority Poverty Rate Growing

New census figures show the Recession is disproportionately affecting Georgia’s Black and Hispanic populations. The poverty rate among minority youth is especially high.

One in four Georgia children is now living in poverty, according to the census. And thirty-six percent of the state’s black children and more than 40 percent of its Hispanic children are destitute.

A family of four living in poverty earns about $22,000 a year, according to government guidelines.

Doug Bachtel is a professor at the University of Georgia. He says the higher indigence rate among minorities is tied in part to higher birth rates among blacks and Hispanics.

“Then you couple that with historically low educational attainment levels, add in some discrimination, plus the Recession, and boy howdy, you have a problem,” he said.

Clare Richie is with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. She says the poverty rate figures for both the state's wider population and for blacks and Hispanics should be a wake-up call to elected officials and policy-makers in Georgia.

“The number of children living in poverty is unacceptably high right now," she said. "One in four Georgia children living in poverty is too high, and with the number of African American and Hispanic children living in poverty even greater, that’s also too high.”

Experts say a high youth poverty rate will have far-ranging repercussions. Growing up poor not only affects the children’s grades and test scores, but it will also reduce their earnings as adults.

Bachtel with UGA says it's difficult to break the cycle of poverty. Companies looking to expand or relocate, he says, often avoid impoverished regions because they need a trained workforce. He says to consider the view of an entrepreneur.

"You want to have people ready to work who have an education so that you don't have a really big training bill so you can hit the ground running," he said of companies starting up or expanding. "And in those places with intergenerational poverty and high crime rates and births to unwed mothers and high dropout rates, well, the population isn’t ready for new business so they are going to look somewhere else,” he said.

Dougherty County in Southwest Georgia is one of those places. Poverty is rising faster there than in any of the state’s largest counties. More than 60 percent of the population there is black.

Georgia is now tied with Texas for tenth highest poverty rate in the nation.