Education key to ending brutal cycle of poverty

Poverty is a crisis for America.

It’s even more heart wrenching when it involves children who don’t know if they will have a meal before bed or one before school starts in the morning.

And sadly, poverty often cycles through generations as an oppressive cloud that just won’t lift.

Experts say when poverty continues through the generations, it takes longer for a community to address the problem, leaving more children likely to grow up and have children who also will live in poverty.

This newspaper carried an alarming story on Sunday outlining new data released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Family Survey that painted an even significantly more alarming picture of poverty in the Mahoning Valley.

In Youngstown, 56.6 percent of children live in poverty. In Warren, it’s 55.2 percent. Ohio’s average child poverty rate is 18.4 percent. In the U.S., it’s 16.8. And this survey is based on data collected in 2019 — before COVID-19 hit.

The poverty rate for children in Youngstown is second only to Daytona Beach, Fla., where 57.6 percent of children live in poverty, according to an analysis from Cleveland.com on cities the survey addressed. The percent of children in poverty increases the younger the child is in Youngstown, where 67.4 percent of children under 5 are living in poverty.

The poverty line is set at $25,926 for a two-parent family of four, and $20,598 for a single parent with two children. The rate for the 2020 threshold for a family of three is $21,720.

In Trumbull County as a whole, 28.8 percent of kids live in poverty — not much more than Mahoning County as a whole, where 28 percent of kids live in poverty.

These unacceptable levels of poverty — especially the unconscionably high child poverty rate — cost us all.

That’s because those caught in poverty’s cycle inevitably experience worse health outcomes and other social problems.

Undoubtedly, we must find solutions to beat this crisis. Plentiful jobs, of course, are a big part of the solution.

Unfortunately, we often read about the struggles of the “working poor.” Many people have jobs, but their wages are not enough to lift themselves and their children above the poverty level.

So, some argue the solution is to provide the area’s most needy and vulnerable with more support and more money. Perhaps, but in reality that provides only short-term relief with no long-term solution.

The preferable long-term answer involves better training for unemployed or underemployed workers and assistance finding jobs.

This newspaper repeatedly has carried stories about the shortage of needed skill sets among members of the local workforce.

Training also must begin earlier in the educational cycle.

And, or course, education itself is the way to raise children out of poverty, Justin Jennings, CEO of Youngstown City Schools, told our reporter.

Indeed, the surest way to pull people out of poverty is to provide them with an education.

A good education with wraparound services can make a difference in a kid’s life, Jennings said.

We agree. Those types of community services are absolutely vital, coupled with family involvement.

While the goal, of course, is to raise the entire family above the poverty level, it also is to educate and prepare our youth so that they are better equipped to escape this brutal cycle.

At the end of the day, education is the key. That work must start in earnest with the youngest victims of poverty.



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