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Idaho’s poverty rate continued its upward climb in 2011, rising to 16.5 percent. That’s higher than the national rate of people living in poverty, which grew to 15.9 percent last year.Put another way, more than 255,000 Idahoans lived below the federal poverty guideline last year.The state’s poverty rate has climbed each year since 2007, when 12.1 percent of state residents lived below the poverty line. While the rate grew by 1.4 percent from 2008 to 2009 and again from 2009 to 2010, it grew by less than a percentage point from 2010 to 2011.

Concentrated Poverty In Idaho A Major Concern For Children's Well-Being

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17,000 children in Idaho live in communities of concentrated poverty. Despite the growing economy, the percentage of kids in these areas has not gone down.

Neighborhoods where 30% or more of the residents are living in poverty are classified as areas of concentrated poverty. Alejandra Cerna Rios, the policy director for Idaho Voices for Children, told Idaho Matters growing up in these areas is one of the biggest threats to healthy childhood development.

“Where we live shapes our lives ... forever," says Rios.

She says it can mean less access to affordable housing, good schools and health care. The survey was last done five years ago, but this year Idaho’s numbers aren’t significantly different. She says the holding trend is concerning because the state’s economy has picked up. 

"So, why aren’t we seeing those numbers change, when our economy’s growing, people have access to jobs, that hasn’t really lifted up on families and communities," says Rios.

The data shows rural communities and racial minorities are most likely to be affected. Idaho City saw the largest spike with the concentrated poverty rate growing from 1% to 7% in the past five years.

Creating more affordable housing and public transportation are two ways Rios says the state can work towards combating concentrated poverty and its widespread effects.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation funded the Kids Count report using the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

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