Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Child poverty on rise in region 

The percentage of school-age children living in poverty has grown in Orange and Ulster counties and leaped ahead in Sullivan County since the recession took hold, according to figures released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

The numbers, broken down by counties and school districts nationwide, show a wide disparity in poverty among children ages 5-17 within the three counties, ranging from a low of 4.4 percent in Tuxedo School District to nearly 52 percent in Kiryas Joel.

Out of 34 school districts in the three counties, seven of the 10 poorest were in Sullivan County. At least one in five school-age children in each of those districts was living below the poverty line, with numbers as high as 31.5 percent in Monticello.

The recession clearly worsened Sullivan's long-standing economic woes. In 2007, 18.5 percent of children ages 5-17 in the county were deemed poor; by 2010, the number had grown to 25.4 percent.

One of Sullivan's poorest districts, Monticello, now serves free or reduced-price lunches to 61 percent of its students — up from 51 percent a year earlier.

"For some students, it's the only warm meal that they may have that day," said Daniel Teplesky, who took over as Monticello superintendent in August.

"There is a need in our area, and we address it each and every day," Teplesky said.

The federal poverty threshold varies by household size.

Despite the concentration in Sullivan, the two school districts with the highest percentages — Kiryas Joel in Orange County and Ellenville in Ulster — were outside its borders.

Kiryas Joel, one of the poorest places in America, is a fast-growing community of about 21,000 Hasidic Jews, who prize religious study over secular education and tend to have low incomes as a result. Many families are large — with six or more children — and rely on Medicaid, food stamps and other programs.

Median household incomes have risen 20 percent or more since the 2000 census, reaching $65,512 in Orange County, $43,882 in Sullivan County and $51,194 in Ulster County in 2010, the new data show. While that seems contrary to growing child poverty , earnings have stagnated or dipped since 2007, when median household incomes were $64,799 in Orange, $45,555 in Sullivan and $55,589 in Ulster.


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