CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While West Virginia has reduced the number of seniors living in poverty, child poverty is a growing problem, according to a report released by two organizations Tuesday.
The state's senior poverty rate fell from 39.2 percent in 1969 to just more than 10 percent today, the report stated. It was released by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
West Virginia's child poverty rate, though, has grown from 19.1 percent in 1969 to more than 23 percent today, according to the report, "Child Poverty in West Virginia: A Growing and Persistent Problem."
"In the last 40 years we have slashed senior poverty by 75 percent," said Stephen Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition. "It wasn't inevitable that seniors had to live in poverty, nor is in inevitable that kids have to live in poverty.
"But it's going to take what it took seniors, which was coordinated, long-term, long-range push of political will," Smith said.
The report was released at the "Worth Our Care" symposium at the Charleston Marriott on Tuesday.
About one in three West Virginia children under age 6 live in poverty today, according to the report.
Children with parents who didn't graduate high school, those with single mothers, African Americans and those with unemployed parents are more likely to live in poverty, the report says.
About half of families with single mothers in the state live below the federal poverty line and more than 30 percent of single-dad families live in poverty, according to the report.
"That to me is like a crisis right there," Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said of the single-mother statistic. "That was one of the statistics that kind of threw my hair back."
Boettner added that marriage is not a solution in and of itself but that family stability is a factor.