Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Katrina Exposes the Dire Consequences of Poverty
Figures released by leading child policy organization demonstrate the extreme vulnerabilities faced by children and families who live in poverty

As the nation faces another devastating hurricane, the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) issues two reports on the status of poverty in the affected region and urges policymakers to recognize the consequences of unchecked poverty nationally.

“We are seeing systemic poverty of the worst kind. The families left behind by Katrina were physically trapped because they are also trapped by poverty,” said Dr. Nancy Cauthen, Deputy Director of the National Center for Children in Poverty. “Many of the affected families had no transportation, and many didn’t even have telephone service to call for help.”

NCCP’s reports highlight the extreme level of poverty that existed in New Orleans, evidenced by the fact that one in five households did not have a car and 8% of all households had no phone service. A lack of transportation and a lack of communication put hurricane victims’ lives in jeopardy.

Throughout the Gulf Coast states, rates of extreme child poverty—that is, children in families with annual incomes of less than $10,000 for a family of four—are among the highest in the nation.

  • 13% of all children in Louisiana live in extreme poverty
  • 12% of all children in Mississippi live in extreme poverty
  • 8% of all children in Alabama live in extreme poverty
  • And in the City of New Orleans, 38% percent of all children live in poverty—which is more than double the national child poverty rate (17% U.S. ).

“Federal and state authorities have long known about the magnitude of poverty in the region. The only surprising thing here is that the nation has failed to adequately address the issue,” said Dr. Cauthen.

As the media show faces of poverty in the Gulf Coast region that are disproportionately black, NCCP’s reports confirm the extreme racial disparities: poverty rates for African-American children far surpass poverty rates for white children not only in the Gulf region but nationally as well.

  • In Louisiana, 44% of all African-American children live in poverty; 9% of white children do.
  • In Mississippi, 41% of African-American children live in poor families; 10% of white children do.
  • In Alabama, 42% of African- American children live in poor families; 11% of white children do.
  • Across the United States, 33% of African-American children live in poor families; 10% of white children do.

For more information on NCCP and child poverty, please visit . To schedule an interview with the authors of the report, please contact Mike Morey at 914-833-7093 or .