Time to address poverty

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More than a third of Lincoln County’s children live in poverty. That’s a shocking statistic that should open our eyes to the need right here in our own community.

Lincoln County’s child poverty number climbed 7.5 percent since 2009, according to the recent 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

We are past the so-called Great Recession, but some here are not experiencing a recovery. While the jobless rate has decreased, the median household income has not. In Lincoln County, the median household income has decreased by $4,000 over five years from $38,000 to $34,000.

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There are other factors besides economic well-being that determine a child’s success in the future, but living in poverty puts children on a course for the same as adults. Children in poverty become adults in poverty.

Another alarming stat is the number of Lincoln County children living in a single-parent family — 45.2 percent. Almost half of the county’s children don’t have the stability and economic advantages that come with a two-parent family. That’s not a recipe for success.

So what’s the solution to these problems?

Obviously, education is a big factor. A better educated workforce tends to attract higher paying jobs, which would boost the median household income and reduce poverty rates.  A greater investment in public education would likely pay dividends here.

Addressing the single-parent household problem isn’t as straight-forward. The solution would require a shift in today’s culture.

No matter the solution, addressing these concerns will take time. And in the meantime, children here in Lincoln County are suffering. If we doing nothing else, we should take care of the poor. That means coming together as a community — including individuals, groups, churches, etc. — to feed and clothe the less fortunate.

Typically, churches fill that need in communities, and while Lincoln County’s churches do a lot, more can likely be done. Those same churches could reach out to single parents (usually mothers), and help them with education needs, job training and other critical need areas.

Though the poor will always be with us, we can hopefully find ways to reduce the percentage of those living in poverty.  But it will take all of us working together.