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This month, a Utah commission will begin its search for solutions to stop the poverty cycle. One of its members is a researcher from the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University.
Ray Reutzel was invited to participate in the Intergenerational Poverty Advisory Committee because of his previous work examining the effects of early childhood poverty on education. He is the Emma Eccles Jones Endowed Chair of Early Child Literacy, and his research has found that single parenthood and low maternal education are predictors of both poverty and a slower start in literacy.
“If we don’t get literacy imbued into the home life and into the preschools of this country, they start out so far behind it’s hard to catch them up,” Reutzel said.
The interplay between education and poverty continues throughout life. One third of intergenerational adults in Utah has less education than a high school diploma or GED, according to a 2012 report from The Utah Department of Workforce Services. Most of the remainder of intergenerational adults in poverty have no secondary education.
The 2012 report found that the more impoverished people were as children, the more likely they were to receive public assistance as an adult.
Reutzel will join leaders from advocacy groups and state agencies dealing with employment, education and health and human services to look for ways to keep poverty from repeating itself over the generations.
The commission was created by Senate Bill 53 in the 2013 legislative session. The group is tasked with sharing data and information, studying programs, increasing coordination between the agencies, organizations and other stakeholders and implementing improvements.
The goal is to have a more coordinated, data-driven approach to helping families end the cycle of poverty.