A new report shows children are affected the most by Florida's economic woes. (Photo from the Virginia State Park Staff.)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Florida’s struggling economy has hurt a lot of people, but none more than children.

The Palm Beach Post highlighted a study this week that took a look at how the poor have fared through these hard times.

Here’s an excerpt:

A study called The Well Being of Florida’s Children — Is Our Future at Risk? shows the poverty rate among Florida’s children has climbed 35 percent between 2006 and 2010, resulting in 1.8 million kids living in low-income households. The state’s rate of low birth-weight infants also is worse than the national average, with 10 percent of Florida children having developmental or behavorial problems.

The number of homeless students in Florida has almost doubled since 2006 and the rate of food insecurity among Florida’s children is worse than the national average, the study found.

It was once the worst of the country’s economic crisis had ended that researchers began to see the effects of a bad economy and a series of austerity measures in states including Florida. It’s now become commonplace to find that children are almost uniformly hurt the most.

Last year, for example, a report highlighted children’s health and the role of poverty in health across the country. According to the 2011 Kids COUNT report, there had been “an 18 percent increase in the U.S. child poverty rate between 2000 and 2009.”

According to a press release from the University of Florida about the study, “this increase means that 2.5 million more children are living below the federal poverty line ($21,756 for a family of two adults and two children) and effectively wiping out the gains made on this important measure in the late 1990’s.”

That same study found that in 2009, more than 850,000 children lived in poverty in Florida — and 46 percent of children lived in households reporting an income below 200 percent of the poverty line. In Florida, more than 850,000 children lived in poverty in 2009 and 1,837,000, or 46 percent of children, lived in households reporting an income below 200 percent of the poverty line.

Florida ranked 36th in the nation for child health and well-being in that study. The 2011 report suggested that in Florida, children were affected greatly by the state’s economic pitfalls.

Here were two important indicators in the study of how young children were affected by the Florida’s economic woes:

  • 626,000, or 10 percent of the state’s children, were impacted by foreclosure since 2007.
  • In 2010, an estimated 468,000, or 12 percent of children in this state, lived in households where there was at least one parent who was eligible for and or seeking employment, but was unemployed at the time the data were collected.

The New York Times reported last year that the number of poor young families was growing nationally.

According to the Times:

More than one in three young families with children were living in poverty last year, according to an analysis of census data by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

At 37 percent, it was the highest level on record for the group, surpassing the previous peak of 36 percent in 1993, according to the analysis by Ishwar Khatiwada, an economist at the center. By comparison, the rate was about 25 percent in 2000 …

“Young families with children are now six times as likely to be poor as elderly families,” Professor Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern and the director of the centers, said. “This is a major generational change. From a public policy standpoint, we should be very deeply troubled by this.”

Due to budget cuts year after year, states like Florida have trouble addressing problems including food insecurity — and, of course, homelessness.

In a ranking of one (best) to 50 (worst), Florida ranked 42nd in the nation last year for child homelessness. About 84,000 children in Florida were homeless in 2010, a report (PDF) from The National Center on Family Homelessness said.

Recently, the Orlando Sentinel reported that in Central Florida alone  officials said “the number of homeless students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties [had] ballooned 79 percent since January 2009.”