One in three children lives below the poverty line in the National Capital Region, with poverty rates rivaling those of developing countries, according to the new report, “Capital Kids: Shared Responsibility, Shared Future” released by Capital One Bank and philanthropic investment organization Venture Philanthropy Partners. The report examines issues youth face –particularly the divide between those who have access to financial, social and educational opportunities and those who do not – in the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; the cities of Falls Church and Alexandria; and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William in Virginia.
The study – which was designed to expose and examine the deep disparities and inequalities affecting individuals and families in the region – urges collaboration among policymakers and local leaders to close the gaps through social services, human service programs and funding and ultimately stimulate economic growth.
“The purpose of ‘Capital Kids ’ is not only to provide a snapshot of the state of youth and children in the D.C. area, but also to give a voice to them – the kids who live in situations of poverty, unemployment and a lack of educational resources every day,” explained Carolyn Berkowitz, president, Capital One Foundation and managing vice president, Community Affairs, Capital One Financial Corporation. “Providing affordable housing, financial literacy, quality education and access to social programs can be game-changers for economic development. Our hope is to encourage other business, political and community leaders in the region to join us to drive positive change and increase opportunities and prosperity in underserved communities.”
The report identifies several roadblocks hindering the success of children and youth in the National Capital Region, including:
- Poverty: 30 percent of children living in the district live below the poverty line. A contributor is the growing number of children growing up in single-mother households, which increases the likelihood of poverty and higher risks to health and development.
- Drop-out rate: An alarming number of youth have dropped out of the educational system. In 2010 alone, more than 43,000 youth between the ages of 5 and 19 were not enrolled in school in the National Capital Region. These youth face significantly limited economic opportunities and pose an enormous cost to society in terms of lost earnings.
- Increased number of immigrant children: The influx of immigrant children in communities, many with limited proficiency in English, requires additional resources and services to help youth achieve educational and economic success. Many of these learners – the newest wave disproportionately young - will have fewer educational and career prospects without support.
- Housing and transportation: These costs in the region are among the highest in the nation, adding to the struggles of low-income families and hindering the expansion of economic opportunities for individuals, families and communities.
- Unemployment and stifled economic growth: The 14,000 youth ages 16 to 19 across the area who currently do not attend school and are not employed could cost the region an estimated $13 billion over their lifetime in lost tax and economic contributions, as well as their use of social services.