SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 2) - THIRTY-eight percent of the 17,733 children in the CNMI as of 2000 were living below poverty line, exceeding the child poverty rate in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia, Variety has learned.

The finding is highlighted in a report by the U.S. Population Reference Bureau and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The CNMI’s child poverty rate was considerably higher than that on nearby Guam, but was lower than the 67 percent poverty rate found in American Samoa.

Guam’s child poverty rate is 29 percent, while the U.S. national rate is 16 percent.

The 23-page report, obtained by Variety, stated that the number of 16 to 19-year-olds who were high school dropouts increased slightly from 29 percent to 30 percent.

Nationwide, only 10 percent of 16 to 19-year olds were high school dropouts in 2000.

"In releasing the report, we...hope that policy makers will find the information useful as they shape programs and services that can address the critical needs of children living on the Northern Mariana Islands," said Dr. William O’Hare of The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Dr. Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau.

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of children in the CNMI increased by 49 percent—from 11,905 to 17,733.

"The rapid increase in the number of children is due to relatively high fertility rates and the migration of families with children. The increase has important social implications for the commonwealth," said the report.

It added, "Although extended family networks in the Northern Mariana Islands provide a safety net for many children, there is also a growing need for programs to provide child care and youth and family services in the area."

Saipan accounted for the biggest increase in the number of children.

In the nation as a whole, the number of children increased only by 14 percent during the same period.

Children as a percentage of the population in the CNMI has decreased in recent decades because of a large influx of temporary, adult migrant workers mostly from the Philippines and China.

The percentage of the population under 18 dropped from 57 percent in 1970 to only 26 percent in 2000.

This is equal to the proportion under age 18 in the U.S. as a whole in 2000.

These figures are based on the U.S. Census of 1990 and 2000.

In 1999, the per capita income in the CNMI was $9,151, compared with $21,587 nationwide.

While the national median household income increased by 7 percent between 1989 and 1999, the CNMI’s decreased by 15 percent.

"This decrease reflects the relatively low wages paid to the growing number of temporary workers in the Northern Mariana Islands," said the report.

The CNMI’s current minimum wage is $3.05 per hour.

About 35 percent of families with children in the CNMI were below poverty in 1999.

Among female-headed families with children, 54 percent were below poverty.

Nationwide, about 14 percent of families with children—and 34 percent of female-headed families with children—were below poverty in 1999.

In 2000, the CNMI’s total population reached 69,221, about 26 percent identified themselves as Filipinos; 22 percent Chinese; 21 percent native Chamorros; 4 percent native Carolinians; and 3 percent Koreans.

In 1970, the CNMI had 155 foreign-born residents.

By 2000, the foreign-born population had grown to 40,122 and outnumbered the native-born residents of only 29,099.

January 2, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com 

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