Child poverty grew 18 percent in the United States between 2000 and 2009, a situation that has especially affected the southern states, minorities and Puerto Rico, according to a report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The number of children living below the poverty line grew by 2.5 million to 14.7 million between 2000 and 2009, the study based on Census data found.

In the case of people of Hispanic origin, the percentage of children below the poverty line increased to 31 percent, only exceeded by the black community, where the figure reached 36 percent.

The official federal poverty line is an annual income of up to $22,350 for a family of four. However, it is calculated that, on average, families need double that amount to pay for their basic necessities.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book for 2011, which examined 10 social indicators, said that the recession, out of which the United States has not completely emerged, "has wiped out many of the economic gains for children that occurred in the late 1990s."

In 2009 the recession resulted in the number of children in low-income homes increasing by 7 percent to 31 million. The next year, 11 percent, or about 8 million children, had at least one of their parents unemployed and 4 percent had suffered the impact of home foreclosure since 2007, the study added.

According to the document, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Massachusetts were in the best positions according to their child welfare indicators, while Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were in the worst shape.

In the District of Columbia, the child poverty rate was 29 percent, while for children in families where nobody had a secure job the figure was 44 percent, rates only exceeded by Puerto Rico.

The poverty rate among Puerto Rican children was 57 percent, about three times higher than the average in the mainland United States, the report said.

"The research and data tell us that children who grow up in low-income families are less likely to successfully navigate life's challenges and achieve future success," Patrick T. McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said.

Political leaders must ensure that "the next generation of children is healthy, educated, and prepared to compete in a global" economy, McCarthy said.

Thus, the Baltimore-based Casey Foundation recommended that greater investments be made in job, health, housing and education programs.

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