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Report notes 'crisis' facing urban Indian youth
Thursday, December 4, 2003

Children in the county with the largest urban Indian population in the U.S. face a "crisis" of poverty, education and housing, according to a study released this week.

Using three decades of census data, the University of California at Los Angeles formed a comprehensive look at socio-economic status of American Indian and Alaska Native children in Los Angeles County. Researchers found that one in four live below the poverty line, few live in two-parent households, many face educational barriers and few have access to childcare.

"As home to the largest urbanized American Indian population, this region should be on the forefront of developing and implementing policies and programs that address the challenges of American Indians," the Los Angeles County American Indian Children's Council (AICC) said on Monday.

The report follows a 2000 study, also undertaken by UCLA, that examined Native youth in the county. Data showed that Native families are eight times more likely to live in the poorest neighborhoods than non-Hispanic whites.

About 111,000 Native Americans make their home in the county, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and their numbers are rising. In the past decade, the Indian population saw a more than 40 percent increase.

At 28 years, the median age of this population is very young. Combined with the growing population, the UCLA report said these factors contribute to a pressing need to provide adequate services to Native youth.

With a median household income of $36,000, Native families are some of the poorest in the county. More than 5,000 Indian families lived at or below the national poverty line, based on census data from 1999. This was nearly 25 percent of all Indian families in the county, the report noted.

Indian families face other challenges, the report noted. About 45 percent were headed by a single parent. More than half of these homes were headed by a Native woman.

Native "children are also more likely to live in crowded housing with fewer basic amenities," the report adds. "These results are not surprising given their overall lower economic status."

As Native youth get older, they are less likely to enter college or some type of post-secondary institution. The four-year dropout rate at public schools was 13 percent. Only about half of Native students graduated with their class, according to data from 2000.

According to the UCLA researchers, childcare for Indians is virtually non-existent in the county. With large numbers of Indian children below the age of 3 and a large number of households headed by single mothers, the report says the need far outweighs the available services.

"The analysis indicates that [Native] children tend to reside in areas with relatively fewer childcare slots," the report stated.

The report was put together by the UCLA's Ralph and Goldy Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. Last November, the center put out a related study on the status of the Native adults. Research showed that two out of five Indian males did not complete high school, the unemployment rate among Indians was nearly twice that of non-Hispanic whites, Indian men earned 45 percent less than non-Hispanic white men and Indian women earned 31 percent less than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. The poverty rate among American Indians was over two and a half times the rate among non-Hispanic whites, the report said.

Get the Report:
The Status of American Indian Children in Los Angeles (November 2003)

Relevant Links:
American Indian Children's Council - http://www.childpc.org/localaicc.asp?spa=9

Related Stories:
Survey finds heavy health burden on Indian population (12/01)
Recession affects poverty rates and income levels (09/29)

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