CONCORD — A series of new reports on child poverty shows large disparities between counties.
New Futures, a Concord-based public health advocacy organization, released reports on childhood poverty in each of New Hampshire’s 10 counties. In seven counties, the rate of child poverty is higher than the state average of 11%.
“New Hampshire, for the most part remains a terrific place to live, work and raise a family,” said Jake Berry, New Futures’ vice president of policy, “But there are certain populations in our state that continue to fall behind.”
In Coos County, more than one in five children live in poverty, according to the report, and the child poverty rate is nearly as high in Belknap County. In Rockingham County, only 6.3 percent of children live in poverty.
The report also lays out other data about the percentage of babies born prematurely in each county, and how many children have health insurance.
Belknap County has the highest rate of premature birth in New Hampshire, with 9.3% of babies born before 37 weeks. The lowest rate, 6.4%, is in Grafton County.
Grafton and Carroll counties have the highest rates of children without health insurance, at 6.2% and 6% respectively. Hillsborough County has the lowest rate of uninsured children, at 2.4%. Another New Futures reports said the rates of uninsured children have declined as more families got insurance through Medicaid and other public programs.
Other services that help children, like family information centers, childcare that is both affordable and high-quality, free pre-kindergarten and all-day kindergarten and home visiting services are not as available in some areas, Berry said.
Berry said he was also concerned about the rates of substance use across New Hampshire. “That’s an area our state has underfunded for a long, long time now,” Berry said.
In all 10 counties, between a quarter and a third of teenagers reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, according to a 2017 survey included in the New Futures report, and in nine counties, more than one in 100 teenagers reported having used heroin at least once.
“Our fear is that if we don’t do a better job of supporting these children and families, this addiction epidemic will just extend into the generations to come,” Berry said.