More than 16 million children now live in poverty in the United States, the highest number since 1962. In all, 19.8 percent of school children were living in poverty in 2010, and childhood poverty rates increased significantly in one of every five U.S. counties between 2007 and 2010, according to a Census Bureau report released today.
And in places like Seminole County, Fla., where the construction industry crumbled during the recession, more than 1,100 homeless students traverse the public schools.
In a heart-wrenching follow-up to a report from eight months ago on the newly homeless in Florida, CBS's 60 Minutes aired a report Sunday that profiles the families who have reached the point where they can't even make ends meet in motels -- and have resorted to living out of their cars.
Arielle Metzger, 15, and her brother Austin, 13, are two of Seminole County's homeless students. They've been living in a truck with their father for five months, but call it "an adventure."
CBS's Scott Pelley asks the two how they respond to their peers when asked about where they live.
"When they see the truck, they ask me if I live in it, and when I hesitate, they kind of realize," Austin tells Pelley. "And they say they won't tell anybody."
"Yeah, it's not really that much an embarrassment," Arielle says. "I mean, it's only life. You do what you need to do, right?"
The Metzgers wash up and get ready for school in gas stations, and when they get to class, they're just like the other students.
For the report, Pelley also spoke to 15 other students in the district who were living out of cars and profiled families that were earning their motel stays by painting guest rooms or who had witnessed family members being robbed of the few dollars they had in the car.
These students also face an uphill battle. A recent Pew Economic Mobility Project report reveals that poor American children of poorly educated parents do a lot worse -- academically and socioeconomically -- than their counterparts in other countries.
Income mobility just within the U.S. has significantly declined since the mid-90s, according to a report this month by the Boston Federal Reserve. In recent years, families were more likely to stay within their income class than before -- the rich are staying rich, and the poor and middle-class are struggling to move up the economic ladder.
The National Center for Education Statistics also reported in October that the high school dropout rate for poor students is disproportionately high: low-income students dropped out at a rate five times greater than their high-income counterparts -- 7.4 percent compared with 1.4 percent.
Still, the rock-bottom lifestyle has instilled in some of Florida's children a rekindled determination and renewal of the American dream. When Pelley asks what education means to her and her brother, Austin responds, "It's everything."
"It's everything to us. I plan to be a child defense lawyer," Arielle adds. "If I focus on my studies, I have that opportunity."
Seminole County Public Schools' organization, Families in Transition, is a social services agency that helps homeless students in the area.
To hear the Metzgers' story and the strife of other families in Seminole County, watch the full 60 minutes segment above, or visit CBS for the full transcript.
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