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Poverty disproportionately impacts Latinos and other people of color.
Child poverty rates are more than twice as high for U.S. Latino children (23.7%) than White children (8.9%), according to a Salud America! research review.
Hardships stemming from poverty, like difficulty meeting basic needs for food, medicine, housing, and transportation, also lead to worse health and life outcomes.
We know that poverty hurts poor neighborhoods and counties that are predominately non-white and low-income.
However, did you know that even in the healthiest counties, children of color still experience poverty at often twice the rate of white children?
“Nearly 1 in 10 children are living in poverty in the nation’s healthiest counties and children of color, particularly Black, Hispanic and Native American children, are disproportionately burdened,” according to the 2021 County Health Rankings report.
Learn more about the new data on children and poverty and how Latinos are affected.
What are the County Health Rankings?
County Health Rankings & Roadmaps is a program by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that measures health disparities in different counties based on local data to help improve health and quality of life.
The 2021 update of the County Health Rankings reflect the inequities worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on racial equity.
“While all are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest opportunities are likely to exit it with an even greater burden. This crisis has only deepened the avoidable and unfair gaps that Black, Latino, Indigenous, and some Asian-American communities faced pre-COVID-19 in jobs with fair pay, housing, education, and more,” according to the County Health Rankings website.
What are the County Health Findings on Poverty?
The 2021 County Health Rankings found that even in the healthiest counties, children of color were disproportionately impacted by poverty.
“Poverty can be overlooked in healthy counties where averages hide the experiences of those who are being excluded from opportunities to thrive. In nearly all counties where data are available, a greater share of Black, Hispanic, and Native American children live in poverty,” according to the 2021 County Health Rankings report.
For example, Howard County in Maryland is in the top 10 healthiest counties in the country. Their overall child poverty rate is only 6%, compared to the national average of 17%.
However, when you look at the racial/ethnic breakdown, Black and Latino children (14% and 6%, respectively) have much higher rates of poverty than white children (2%).
This gap indicates that not all children in this community have the same opportunities to live long, healthy lives.
We can also examine poverty rates in a large Latino county and see how racial/ethnic disparities exist for children.
In Los Angeles County, California (49% Latino), the overall child poverty rate is 18%, close to the national average (17%). However, Latino children have a poverty rate of 26%, compared to white children with 8%.
This data shows how even in wealthy areas, poverty impacts children of color.
County Health Rankings points to historical social causes for the disparities.
“Centuries of structural racism and ongoing discrimination lie at the root of the disparities, which can be found in healthy and often wealthy areas across the country. Evidence shows that eliminating inequities in all counties — regardless of the opportunities for some — improves the lives of all residents,” according to the 2021 County Health Rankings report.
How Does Poverty Affect Latinos?
Latino families are more likely to live in poverty than white families.
Unfortunately, Latino children suffer severe financial, social, and physical impacts of poverty.
“These children may experience lasting effects into adulthood on academic achievement, health, and income. They are also at increased risk for injuries and are more susceptible to chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes,” according to the 2021 County Health Rankings report.
Research from Salud America! shows that there are far-reaching effects of poverty for Latinos.
“The chaotic home lives and the community conditions characteristic of low SES areas — such as community violence and substandard housing — are linked to worse socioemotional outcomes for children. Poorer quality schools, high levels of unemployment, social isolation, and a lack of positive peer influences are common in high-poverty areas. Those living in poverty are often socially excluded due to the financial inability to participate in social activities. Social networks, including family, friends, work-based, and community relationships, whether face-to-face or remote, are important,” according to a Salud America! research review.
The evidence is clear that action and policies are needed to address these health disparities affecting Latinos.
How Can We Address Poverty & Equity?
County Health Rankings recommend the following ideas to utilize their data to improve equity and poverty:
- Engage with leaders from impacted communities who are working to advance health equity
- Assess how the County Health Rankings model works to explore the fundamental causes of health.
- Investigate new sources and measures to more effectively capture differences in health and living opportunities
“We know data alone is not sufficient to advance change. As we evolve our model, data, and measures; leverage partner relationships; synthesize perspectives from the most impacted communities; and improve our tools and website, we believe all of these efforts will work together to contribute to transformative change and action across the nation,” according to the County Health Rankings website.
Addressing health disparities in Latino communities is important to give everyone equitable access to the opportunity to live a healthy life.
Through their What Works for Health feature, County Health Rankings provides strategies, policies, and programs that have been shown to improve the different health factors:
- To increase high school graduation rates, some suggested programs are dropout prevention GED certificate, and mentoring.
- To reduce barriers to healthcare, County Health Rankings suggests health insurance enrollment outreach, rural transportation services, and health literacy interventions.
- To combat poverty, they suggest policies like childcare subsidies, wage increases, and income tax credits.
“Increasing opportunities for everyone can reduce gaps in health,” according to the County Health Rankings website.
Another way we can advocate for health equity is by downloading a Health Equity Report Card.
The Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio lets you see many local children are living in poverty and food deserts, what access to education and healthcare your neighbors have, and how many households get access to SNAP food benefits.
Then you can email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make the case to address inequities where help is needed most!