Children and Poverty in Allendale

As a scientist, I love statistics and collecting data. And as a pessimist, I don’t just see the glass as half-empty; I can look at a glass that is 90% full and complain that it is 10% empty. (Have you ever noticed that we pessimists arrogantly say stuff like, “I’m not being pessimistic; I’m being realistic” — as if optimists are living in a world of fantasy?)

As a Christ-follower, I need to remember that I don’t need to focus on a despair about the negatives. My role is to Pour in Good, Fresh Water — to keep blessing others and making life better for those around me. God can use each member in the body of Christ for His purpose of redeeming the world.

But I came across some data from the Kids Count Data Center that I wanted to pass on. I was intrigued by looking at the data for Allendale County, and comparing to Greenville County, statewide (South Carolina), and the nation as a whole.

In 2009, there were approximately 2400 children under 18 years old in Allendale County. For these children:

  • Percent of Children in Poverty = 48.3%
    • Greenville = 21.4%
    • South Carolina = 24.4 %
    • National = 20.0%
  • Teen Birth Rate (# of births per 1000 females age 15-19) = 60
    • Greenville = 42
    • South Carolina = 41
    • National = 53

According to experts like Ruby Payne (A Framework for Understanding Poverty), in a culture of generational poverty the family is centered around the mother. The resources (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social) of the mother play a crucial role in determining how much support children receive. Therefore, it is important to consider the demographics of mothers in Allendale (compared to a middle-class culture like Greenville County):

  • % of Births to Mothers Who:
    • Are Under 18 = 5.4%   (Greenville = 3.8%)
    • Have Less Than a High School Education = 34.9%  (Greenville = 24.5%)
    • Are Single = 77.2%  (Greenville = 40.2%)

Lastly, we can look at data about environmental factors. David Berliner outlined six out-of-school factors that affect a child’s cognitive achievement, with environmental pollutants being one of those factors. That is, a child growing up among significant pollutants is already at an educational disadvantage. Here is a statistic about the amount of lead in the blood levels of children (from 2003 – 2005):

  • % Children (< 5 years old) with Elevated Lead Blood Levels = 1.4%  (Greenville = 0.8%)

Think about all this data. Children in Allendale are already starting with a handicap, before they are even out of the gates. They are significantly affected by food insecurity, confused and stressed mothers, broken homes, environmental toxins, and more. And all this before they even get to school age.

I don’t know what all this means, and I surely don’t know what the solution is. But I do know that God is powerful enough to redeem all this brokenness. And He uses ordinary folks like us to make it happen.

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