Investors bemoan a lost decade in the stock market, but the real losers were kids.
The U.S. child poverty rate climbed 18 percent — or by 2.5 million children — between 2000 and 2009.
Reductions in child poverty from the late 1990s have been effectively wiped out, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2011 Kids Count Data Book.
Twenty percent of American children live below the poverty line (annual income of $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children), up from 17 percent in 2000.
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The outlook is even bleaker for young Kentuckians.
One in four lives in poverty. The percent of Kentucky children in poverty increased from 22 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2009, as Kentucky's ranking fell from 43rd to 48th.
Only two states, Mississippi and Arkansas, are home to a higher percentage of poor children.
Kentucky also has the nation's fifth-highest rate of children with at least one unemployed parent. An estimated 122,000 children or 12.9 percent lived in households where at least one parent was actively seeking a job but was unemployed.
Kentucky ranked 41st among the states in the foundation's overall measure of child well-being.
A hopeful spot, the percent of Kentuckians ages 16 to 19 who were not in school and not high school graduates dropped by 30 percent from 2000 to 2009.
The increase in child poverty is troubling on many levels. The global economic downturn is partly to blame, of course, just as the economic boom of the late 1990s lifted personal incomes in Kentucky.
The poverty numbers also reflect fundamental weaknesses unique to Kentucky's economy, work force and approach to jobs creation.
The large number of children growing up with the stresses, deprivations and disruptions that poverty imposes bodes ill for the state's future.
It will take vision and bold action, the kind not recently seen from our elected leaders, to avoid another lost decade for Kentucky's kids.