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Recently released study looks at the root causes for chlid poverty within the county

The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) has just released the 2017 Tracking Oregon's Progress (TOP) report focused on Oregon's opportunity gap.

The report, titled "Toward a Thriving Future: Closing the Opportunity Gap for Oregon's Kids," addresses the widening opportunity gap Oregon children face. The circumstances of one's birth and longstanding patterns of discrimination determine the opportunities that are available and the life paths that are achievable.

The Canby Herald.

While the report doesn't break things down to a community level, it does drill down by county and in that, Clackamas County has some positives, according to Melissa Wilmot of the Oregon Community Foundation.

"About two years ago our board and some other members read the book "Our Kids," by Robert Putnam. In it, he pointed out this concept of an opportunity gap – low income children are less and less likely to achieve the American dream, and less likely to get out of poverty as adults," said Wilmot. "So, we started thinking about how our work relates to that opportunity gap. We found a lot of it resonated with us and it became something we are trying to address at the foundation. We wanted to put some numbers out there about the issue."

Wilmot noted that one in five Oregon children are living in poverty, though nearly half of children in Oregon are living at the low income threshold.

The poverty rate in Clackamas County is about 12 percent, compared to a statewide poverty rate of 22 percent.

"I think a couple of high points in this area are that low income kids and kids in poverty in Clackamas County are more likely to reach the middle class or above than kids in other counties in Oregon," said Wilmot. "Research done about income shows that kids who spend their first 20 years in Clackamas County can expect to earn about 3 percent more as an adult."

Wilmot pointed to positive gains in racial and economic integration as keys to those findings.

Key findings from the report include:

- Child poverty is on the rise, with long-term negative consequences. 47 percent of Oregon children are being raised in low-income families.

- Opportunity partly depends on where a child is raised. In 23 of Oregon's 36 counties, less than half of the children born into low-income families will reach the middle class or beyond as adults.

- Family structure and circumstances impact children's future success. Low-income children are more likely to move out of poverty if they are born to married parents, but one-third of Oregon children live with just one parent, and single-parent families are on the rise in rural Oregon.

- Educational disparities begin early and persist. The gap in social and cognitive development between low-income children and their higher-income peers begins in infancy.

However, there is much to be done to improve prospects for Oregon's children. Highlights include:

- Encourage economically and racially integrated communities by supporting collaborative affordable housing solutions. Increasing the availability of affordable housing in opportunity-rich neighborhoods gives low-income families better access to jobs, high-quality schools and safe communities.

- Strengthen families and foster better child-parent relationships by increasing access to parenting education. Healthy relationships with parents promote brain development.

- Increase the availability of family-wage jobs by supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and rural job creation.

- Ensure that more children are ready for kindergarten by increasing access to high-quality, affordable early childhood education.

Early environments that foster learning, whether in the home or in child care and preschool settings, are critical for future academic success.

OCF is committed to addressing the opportunity gap through partnerships, grantmaking and leadership.

To read the full TOP Report, please visit https://www.oregoncf.org/top-indicators.

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