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Report: 56 Pct of kids in Puerto Rico living in poverty

PUERTO RICO-CHILDREN | 16 de marzo de 2011

Between 2006 and 2008 a total of 545,000 children in Puerto Rico were poor, poverty being defined as a family of four existing on less than $21,834 a year. EFE/File

San Juan, Mar 15 (EFE).- The National Council of La Raza reported Tuesday that 56 percent of Puerto Rico's children live in poverty, more than triple the proportion for the United States as a whole.

The nation's largest Latino civil rights organization held a press conference in San Juan to present the 2010 KIDS COUNT - Puerto Rico Data Book.

Puerto Rico has one of the highest teenage birth rates in the United States. In Vieques, the rate has reached 114.4 births for every 1,000 girls in the 15-19 age group.

And the island commonwealth leads all U.S. jurisdictions in the proportion of teenagers who neither attend school nor work, 14.6 percent.

The lead author of the report, NCLR Senior Research Analyst Nayda Rivera-Hernandez, told a press conference that before inaugurating policies meant to aid children and young people, it is first necessary to have all the facts.

She said that government policies should be directed toward promoting a healthy life focused on academic achievement, which she said would lead in the future to more productive citizens.

Citing figures from the report, Rivera-Hernandez drew a gloomy picture of childhood in Puerto Rico.

She said, for example, that in 2007, babies weighing less that 2.5 kilos (5.5 lbs) at birth constituted 11 percent of the total.

Puerto Rican women are also particularly susceptible to giving birth prematurely.

Rivera-Hernandez stressed that some of the problems stem from children's low educational levels.

With regard to the meager funds many live on, between 2006 and 2008 a total of 545,000 children in Puerto Rico were poor, poverty being defined as a family of four existing on less than $21,834 a year.

Average household income in Puerto Rico in 2006-2008 was $20,795, compared with $60,764 for the United States as a whole.

The poverty level showed great disparities - from 35 percent in the Trujillo Alto district near San Juan to 77.8 percent at Orocovis in the geographical center of the island.

The NCLR study said that another reason for the nation's poverty was that 49.7 percent of Puerto Rican children live in single-parent families, compared with 32 percent of all U.S. youngsters.

The report concludes that the figures it came up with will influence authorities to pay more attention to a problem of which there is too little awareness, and will promote the exchange of information.

NCLR's research was funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Puerto Rico.

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America in English