Friday, October 20, 2006

Latino and African American children still lag behind whites and Asians in health and education indicators in Los Angeles County

Susannah Rosenblatt:

Reversing a longtime downward trend, child poverty is on the rise across Los Angeles County as housing costs spiral out of reach for working-class families, according to a report to be released today.

An estimated three-quarters of the county's more than 1.2 million households with children struggle economically, according to this year's Children's ScoreCard, released every two years by the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council. The cost of living has spiked more than 40% since 1999, as the county's median wage inched up to $15.28 last year.

Many parents are forced to live in less safe but more affordable neighborhoods, jam several families into a single residence or work several jobs to pay the rent. Just 14% of county households could afford to buy a home in 2005, compared with 50% nationwide. And while 11% of Westside rental units are overcrowded, two-thirds of rentals in Bell Gardens, South El Monte and Lennox were packed with too many residents. As a result, children suffer as they grow up in low-income households.

"We've set it up for these kids to fail," said Yolie Flores Aguilar, chief executive officer of the council.

The study tracks recent statistics that offer a sketch of the county's families.

Underscoring long-standing geographic disparities, data show that children in the dense urban neighborhoods of Central and South Los Angeles continue to live in the toughest economic conditions while Westside families enjoy relative prosperity.

Yet family incomes are suffering countywide; the study "lays bare the reality that poverty is afflicting every geographic community of Los Angeles," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the council.

Latino and African American children still lag behind whites and Asians in health and education indicators.

African American children are more likely to be born underweight or with asthma, or to be arrested, than peers of other ethnicities. More Latino children come from low-income families than other groups, have the least-educated parents and are the worst-prepared for college. Asian youngsters perform the best in education measures, while white children fare better economically.

"There's a strong correlation between race and how well kids are doing across the county," Flores Aguilar said. She emphasized the "ripple effects" of poverty, which can undermine a child's health, performance at school and eventual success as an adult.

Children's poverty rate resumes growth in Los Angeles County

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