SD has highest rural poverty rate in Great PlainsMore than one-fourth of the state’s rural children live in poverty, according to a report by the Center for Rural Affairs.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
South Dakota has the highest rate of rural poverty in a 10-state region of the Great Plains, and more than one-fourth of the state’s rural children live in poverty, according to a report by the Center for Rural Affairs.
According to 2010 census data used in the report, 20.6 percent of South Dakotans in rural counties live in poverty. That’s 44,973 of the state’s 218,821 rural residents.
Montana was the next closest state with a rural poverty rate of 17.8 percent. A rural county is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as a county with a population center less than 10,000 residents in size and is not in a metropolitan or micropolitan area.
The rate of poverty among rural children in South Dakota was 27.2 percent. Montana and Colorado are the only other states to have rural child poverty figures higher than 20 percent.
South Dakota’s childhood rural poverty rate is twice that of the rate in the state’s larger population centers.
“There are hundreds of studies out there that show that poverty and food insecurity issues have long-term effects on children and their mental and physical development,” said Jon Bailey, the director for rural research and analysis for the Center for Rural Affairs. “We have a large segment of the population that we are dooming to a life of reduced development, both mentally and physically.”
The report was compiled by Bailey and South Dakota State University graduate Kim Preston, both of whom lead rural research and analysis for the CFRA, a private, nonprofit organization based in Lyons, Neb., examining socioeconomic issues in rural America.
Bailey said a high level of poverty on South Dakota’s American Indian reservations is a contributing factor to South Dakota’s ranking.
“If you take out the reservation counties, the rest of South Dakota seems to be similar to other states in the region, as far as poverty rates,” he said.
According to Bailey, the most alarming of the statistics was the child poverty and the level of food insecurity in the region, which uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measure of the lack of access to nutritionally adequate foods.
In addition to South Dakota, the CFRA report includes all of North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Kansas. The report includes parts of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Wisconsin.
The overall 2010 regional poverty rate was 12.4 percent, or 2.5 million residents in the 10-state area.
The rate in rural areas was 13.3 percent. Poverty rates in micropolitian and metropolitan areas were at 12.7 and 12.1 percent, respectively.
“Rural areas of the region tend to have fewer economic opportunities,” Bailey said. “And the jobs that are in rural communities are low-wage jobs. The unemployment figures in most rural parts of the region are fairly low, but the wages that people make at those jobs are low, too.”