Childhood poverty in the Richmond region is on the rise.
An analysis of U.S. Census data by the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg finds the percentage of children younger than 18 who live in poverty — in a region including Richmond, Petersburg and surrounding counties — has jumped from 11.9 percent to 14.8 percent, an increase of 8,516 children.
Census numbers for 2010 are not yet available and the United Way report reflects a period between 2000 and 2008. But the report highlights notable trends in poverty for the region, which also includes the cities of Colonial Heights and the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, Powhatan and New Kent.
Richmond is home to the highest percentage of young people living in poverty, 35.6 percent, followed by the city of Petersburg at 30.7 percent. The region's overall childhood poverty rate — 14.8 percent — is slightly higher than the overall state rate of 13.6 percent. The federal government deems a family of four with annual income at or below $22,050 to be living in poverty.
In addition to the jump in childhood poverty, the rates of overall poverty, children receiving free or reduced-priced school lunches and births that were to single mothers also rose between 2000 and 2008.
The total population living in poverty in the region rose from 8.5 percent to 10.7 percent, an increase of 29,621 people. The most impoverished areas in the region are the city of Richmond, with 25.1 percent of the population living in poverty, followed by Petersburg, with 20.1 percent of residents living in poverty.
Hanover County has the smallest percentage of residents (4.6 percent) living in poverty. (Hanover also has the lowest rate of childhood poverty and the highest median income — $77,935 — in the region in 2008.)
Using Virginia Department of Education data, the United Way report notes that births to single mothers jumped from 35.5 percent to 42.5 percent.
Petersburg trumped Richmond here, with 75 percent of births in that city to single mothers. Petersburg also scored higher than Richmond on the percentage of school pupils approved for reduced-price or free lunches, even though Richmond's childhood poverty rate was higher.