By Nora Tooher

Cleveland has the third-highest level of childhood poverty in the nation, with 47,000 children, or 53 percent, living in poverty in 2012.

The childhood poverty rate in Cleveland is more than double the national average of 23 percent and Ohio’s statewide average of 24 percent.

Only two cities – San Juan, Puerto Rico, 58 percent and Detroit, 59 percent – had higher childhood poverty levels, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey and released by the Kids Count Data Center.

The data, which was updated in September, shows that the percentage of children living in poverty in Cleveland has climbed each of the past five years. In contrast, childhood poverty in Columbus fell last year to 32 percent from 33 percent the year before.

The Kids Count data includes only the nation’s 50 largest cities. Smaller cities, such as Missouri’s third-largest city, Springfield, were not ranked.

Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development, the Kids Count report said. Poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn. It can also contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems and poor health.

Childhood poverty rates refer to the number of children under age 18 who live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

Of the children in Cleveland who are living in poverty, 57 percent are 5 years old and younger.

In calendar year 2012, a family of two adults and two children fell in the poverty category if their annual income was below $23,283.

Nationally and statewide, the childhood poverty rate was unchanged in 2012 from 2011. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia saw their child poverty rate decrease or stay the same between 2011 and 2012.

States with the highest childhood poverty rates were Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana and Kentucky.
North Dakota had the lowest level of childhood poverty, followed by Maryland, Alaska, Connecticut, Vermont and Utah.