Growing up through the cracks

First published: January 14, 2019
Last updated: December 30, 2019

Children surrounded by poverty face narrowed futures and, often, shortened lives. In southwestern Pennsylvania's fragmented patchwork of cities, boroughs and townships, they're also likely to live in places without the resources to provide safety, recreation and a healthy environment.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, throughout 2019, explored the data tying childhood deprivation to a host of other problems, and delved into communities in which half of the kids live in poverty. Reporters and photographers visited with families doing their best in difficult surroundings, explored the causes and effects, and searched for solutions.

The Economic Hardship Reporting Project supported Stacy Innerst's illustration. The USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism supported the data work. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting supported international travel.

Gaming and art helped Jared Todd to contend with Rankin’s violence

That was just one of many ways young people dealt with the effects of the concentrated child poverty the Post-Gazette found during the year-long series Growing up through the Cracks.
Anthony, Nellie and Oliver Brown escaped rural Fayette County’s struggles by wading the creek to tiny Horseshoe Island.
Kee’Miyah West invented the Boxoplenty family as an antidote to North Braddock’s deprivation.


by Stacy Innerst


Cleaning Day: Dalmarnock Primary School, Glasgow, Scotland


by Stacy Innerst


Kee’Miyah & The Boxoplentys


by Stacy Innerst


Anthony's escape

At 8, Anthony Brown has school, extracurricular activities -- and duties on the farm. As family financial woes mount and his mother's cancer encroaches, his mind drifts to a place where he can still be a kid: Horseshoe Island.


by Stacy Innerst


Jared's narrowed world

Violence in Hawkins Village drove Jared Todd, 16, to a largely indoor existence in which his anxious energy bursts forth in art and gaming.


by Stacy Innerst


Top vs Bottom


If your family lives in White Oak or Churchill, you can pretty much guarantee that the neighbor kids aren't living in poverty, according to estimates the Census Bureau released in late 2017. In seven Allegheny County municipalities, though, you can bet they are. See how your community compares to North Braddock, where around three in five children live in poverty.

Select your municipality to compare child poverty rates:

In % of children live in poverty.

That rate is {{percentCalc.finalValue | number : 1.0}} percentage points lower than North Braddock's rate.



Mapping inequality


Communities with high child poverty tend to have lower home ownership rates and higher turnover than their more affluent neighbors. In Wilmerding, for example, just three in 10 residents own their homes, and three in 10 lived somewhere else the year before, according to the Census Bureau. That means many kids are subjected to a sense of neighborhood instability at best, and personal dislocation at worst.

Go in-depth with our full data in Growing up Through the Cracks.

Stories in this series


Rankin: Fighting 'the depressed mindset'

In a town kept down by county decisions and indecision, even the most determined families find it hard to rise above stagnation, deprivation, and violence.

Growing up Through the Cracks

When half the kids are in poverty, our fractured towns can offer no future.

Where fighting poverty is a priority

The children at the center of North Braddock's storm

Fragmented local government a challenge in addressing pockets of high child poverty in Allegheny County

Report offers plan to cut child poverty in U.S. in half in 10 years

A novel policing arrangement brings county cops up close with kids in poverty

Pa.'s fix for distressed communities hasn't worked for Duquesne's families

Saltlick: “They don’t know they’re poor.”

Bid to shift state funding threatens Allegheny County family support centers

Pa. officials reverse course on local family support center funding

What it’s like to work in child care, raise your kids and just get by in the Mon Valley

Study: An increasing number of Pa. kids living in high-poverty areas

North Braddock: Treasures Amid Ruins

Grown-up solutions to combat child poverty

A wee spark of hope

In Leechburg, an elementary school stands against a tide of poverty

'The issue of our time'

As a community service, the entire Growing Up Through The Cracks series is now available subscription-free.

Support journalism. Subscribe today.

If you are a loyal subscriber, thank you for your support.