Recession Hits Latino Youth in Colorado Disproportionately Hard

The recession has disproportionately affected Hispanic children in Colorado; driving up the number of Latino children in poverty, exacerbating both nutritional issues and higher rates of attempted suicides among Latino kids.

"While economists proclaimed the end of the Great Recession more than a year ago, the end was nowhere in sight for many Colorado families," Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children's Campaign, said during the presentation of the report.

Thirty percent of Colorado's 1.2 million children are of Hispanic origin. And among Latino youngsters, 34 percent live in families with an income of less than $22,000 a year.

That signifies, according to CCC, a 17-percent increase in the number of poor Hispanic children between 2008-2009, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available.

"And while there are recent indications that economic factors, including employment rates, are improving, the impacts on our children are ongoing and significant," Watney said.

Another area that reflects the impact of the recession has to do with the eating habits of Hispanic and African American children. According to CCC, 41 percent of minors in these groups suffer from overweight or obesity, compared with 27 percent of children in general.

Paradoxically, the CCC report says, juvenile overweight and obesity stem from poverty. Families living in neighborhoods with low incomes have little access to fresh, nutritious food. These youngsters also have little chance to do physical exercise.

CCC also detected that while in 2008-2009 the rate of minors who seriously contemplated suicide went down generally, there was no such drop among Hispanic children, who continue being the group with the most suicide attempts in Colorado.

But one of the most worrying discoveries of the new report is the increase in the number of homeless students in Colorado.

From 2006 to 2010, according to CCC, the number of students with no fixed place to live grew from 12,000 to 18,400, an increase of 53 percent.

While the statistics do not indicate how many of these children are Latinos, CCC Vice President Lisa Piscopo believes it likely that they constitute a high percentage of the homeless kids.

Among minors with no home of their own, slightly more than 14,000 stay with friends or family members, while 2,300 live in family shelters and almost 1,000 in hotels.

But 684 of these children live on the streets, mostly in parks, cars or unoccupied buildings.

"Because poverty negatively influences almost every other aspect of a child's well-being, this has substantial implications for our state's children and our future - challenges that as a result of the Great Recession have affected more Colorado children from a wide range of circumstances," Watney said.

"There is no doubt the Great Recession will leave an indelible mark on Colorado's children," she said. "But accurate data and information is the key to understanding the realities our kids are facing and for determining the best opportunities to protect them, securing not only their futures but the future of Colorado."