The US Census Bureau’s latest poverty statistics from 2009 report that nearly one in five children under the age of 18 lived in poor families (in 2008).  As this number does not measure the full effect of the economic recession, policy analysts have tracked the increase in enrollment in subsidy and cash assistance programs for a more current measure.  Between August 2008 and August 2009 the number of people receiving SNAP (food stamps) increased by 7.0 million, or 24 percent.  This extraordinary increase means that roughly 3.4 million more children were receiving SNAP benefits than a year earlier.1

Missouri and Illinois

In a state-to-state comparison of child poverty during the recession, neither Missouri or Illinois was included in a group of 9 states, all southern, with the highest risk levels for child poverty.  Missouri, however, ranked in the second-tier group of states which had mid-level child poverty and very high SNAP enrollment increases.  Illinois was in a lower risk category than Missouri: it also ranked “mid-level” in child poverty (or between 15 and 20 percent) and had a “high” rate of SNAP enrollment growth (compared to Missouri’s “very high” rate.)  In 2008, Illinois had a child poverty rate of 17.0 and had 535,000 poor children.  Missouri’s child poverty rate was 30.4, and the state had 229,000 poor children. 1 Rates for 2009 are expected to be significantly higher.

The 17-county metropolitan statistical area of St. Louis has great diversity of income.  Those of lower socioeconomic status have been disproportionately affected by the economic recession.  Local families have faced specific challenges obtaining and maintaining affordable housing and maintaining employment.  Shortfalls in the Missouri state government’s budget will result in cuts in health and mental health services especially for the under-insured, and in child care subsidies.

According to the EWG report, Where We Stand Update: The National Foreclosure Crisis, St. Louis had 15,000 foreclosure filings in 2007, representing 1.28% of all housing units.  St. Louis rated in the ‘average’ range in a comparison of 35 major metropolitan areas.

1Brookings; First Focus.  (January 6, 2010). The Effects of Recession on Child Poverty: Poverty Statistics for 2008 and Growth in Need during 2009.