One in 10 children in Gallatin County was living in poverty last year, according to a report that examines the wellbeing of children statewide.
The Montana Kids Count 2010 Data Book, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and published by the University of Montana's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, highlights social and economic factors affecting children. The report looks at dozens of indicators from poverty rates to family habits.
According to the report, 11 percent of Gallatin County children lived in families who earned less than the federal poverty level in 2009. In Park County, 17 percent lived in poverty. The federal poverty level for a family of four was $22,050 last year.
Statewide, the situation was worse.
Statewide, about one in five children were living in poverty last year. Eleven percent of children younger than age 18 lived in extreme poverty - at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, the report said.
"The big story is the unemployment rate throughout the state," said Julie Ehlers, communications director for Montana Kids Count. "It's no secret that the unemployment rate has gotten worse. Jobs are not what they used to be."
Unemployment hovered at 6.3 percent for Gallatin County and 7.3 percent for Park County in 2009, according to the report.
Unemployment among Montana teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 reached 16.6 percent in 2009, up from 10.3 percent in 2007. Local statistics were not available.
In both Gallatin and Park counties, more than twice as many people used the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamps program) in 2009 than in 2000. The same trend occurred statewide.
"In recessionary times, people are less inhibited to use programs," Ehlers said. "People feel sort of a collective struggle."
But despite economic struggles, there are some positive signs for local children in the report.
Fewer teenage girls are having babies, for example. The number of Gallatin County teens giving birth dropped to 3 percent in 2009, from 6 percent in 2000. In Park County, that figure dropped from10 percent to 5 percent.
Additional information about the Montana Kids Count Data Book is available at www.montanakidscount.org.
Amanda Ricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2628.