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From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children's latest school readiness report shows that two in five children under age 5 live in low-income families.

"That's a pretty startling fact -- the percentage of children who live in families who don't have enough to meet the basic essentials of kids' lives," said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

The report looked at 16 measures and concluded Pennsylvania lost ground in six of them compared to last year's report. The years covered by the data are the latest available but vary by category.

The report showed larger percentages of young children lack health insurance and larger percentages live in homes where English is not the primary language spoken.

It also said smaller percentages are in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs and smaller percentages were proficient on the third-grade state reading tests. It also said there are fewer slots for child care subsidy.

Ms. Benso called the report a "wake-up" call for policy-makers.

"We can't wait to make investments in children's lives until the economy gets better," she said. "Children don't get the opportunity to do over their preschool years or get another chance at being an infant or a toddler."

She said the trends are true across the state.

"The pain is being shared in 67 counties," she said.

The percentage of low-income children is based on the 2006-08 American Community Survey done by the U.S. Census Bureau. It showed 29,618 more young children living in low-income families than in the 2000 Census, an increase from 264,067 to 293,685.

In percentage terms, the growth was from 36.9 percent to 39.8 percent.

Low-income is defined as 200 percent of poverty. In 2010, that amounts to $44,100 for a family of four.

The report also showed that 51.3 percent of children from birth through age 4 receive public health insurance, most of them Medicaid and some of them CHIP health insurance. That was an increase from 49.4 percent.

Other areas counted as improvements included a smaller percentage of births to mothers with less than a high school diploma and a small decline in the percentage of babies born with low birth weights.

It also noted that of children from birth through age 4 there were fewer reports and substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect and fewer children in foster care.

The full report is available at

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