Declining U.S. Economy Doesn’t Stop Gains in Child Education and Health, New Report Shows

Posted July 25, 2012
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsrelease kidscountdatabook 2012

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s lat­est KIDS COUNT Data Book shows both promis­ing progress and dis­cour­ag­ing set­backs for the nation’s chil­dren: While their aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment and health improved in most states, their eco­nom­ic well-being con­tin­ued to decline.

Over the peri­od of rough­ly 2005 to 2011, the improve­ments in children’s health and edu­ca­tion include a 20% decrease in the num­ber of kids with­out health insur­ance; a 16% drop in the child and teen death rate; an 11% reduc­tion in the rate of high school stu­dents not grad­u­at­ing in four years; and an 8% reduc­tion in the pro­por­tion of eighth-graders scor­ing less than pro­fi­cient in math.

The 2012 Data Book indi­cates kids and fam­i­lies nation­wide are still strug­gling eco­nom­i­cal­ly in the wake of the reces­sion. In 2010, one-third of youths had par­ents with­out secure employ­ment — an increase of 22%, or about 4 mil­lion chil­dren, in just two years. From 2005 to 2010, the num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in pover­ty rose by 2.4 million.

This year’s find­ings reveal signs of hope in the midst of tough eco­nom­ic times for mil­lions of fam­i­lies across the coun­try,” said Patrick McCarthy, the Casey Foundation’s pres­i­dent and CEO. While we’ve made progress in some impor­tant areas, we must work togeth­er to make sure every child, not just a select few, has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to suc­ceed. We can help chil­dren reach their full poten­tial by ensur­ing they stay on track in school and grow up healthy in strong finan­cial­ly sta­ble fam­i­lies sur­round­ed by sup­port­ive communities.”

This year’s Data Book was updat­ed with a broad­er index of 16 indi­ca­tors of child well-being, orga­nized into four cat­e­gories: Eco­nom­ic Well-Being, Edu­ca­tion, Health, and Fam­i­ly and Com­mu­ni­ty. Pre­vi­ous annu­al rank­ings were based on just 10 indi­ca­tors; the new index reflects the tremen­dous advances in child devel­op­ment research since the first KIDS COUNT Data Book pub­lished by The Foun­da­tion in 1990. The report also ranks states in each of the four categories.

The data reveal that there is still much to be done to improve the prospects for the next gen­er­a­tion,” said Lau­ra Speer, the Casey Foundation’s asso­ciate direc­tor for pol­i­cy reform and data. They also show that a child’s suc­cess depends not only on indi­vid­ual, fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty resources, but also on the state where he or she grows up.”

Among the find­ings, the three most pop­u­lous states ranked in the bot­tom half in terms of over­all child well-being: Cal­i­for­nia, the most pop­u­lous state, is ranked at No. 41, Texas at No. 44 and New York at No. 29.

New Hamp­shire, Mass­a­chu­setts and Ver­mont rank high­est in over­all child well-being, while Neva­da, New Mex­i­co and Mis­sis­sip­pi rank low­est in this year’s Data Book. A few oth­er note­wor­thy state developments:

  • Eight of the 10 most pop­u­lous states are in the bot­tom half of the over­all rankings.
  • In 36 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, at least one in three chil­dren lived in house­holds that pay more than 30% of their income on hous­ing costs.
  • The num­ber of fourth-graders scor­ing less than pro­fi­cient in read­ing dropped in 35 states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia, with Mary­land and Alaba­ma see­ing the great­est improvement.
  • Child pover­ty rates rose in 43 states, rang­ing from New Hampshire’s 10% rise to Mississippi’s 33%.
  • Ver­mont and Vir­ginia led among 47 states that saw their child and teen death rates decline, with decreas­es of 46 and 30%, respec­tive­ly. The Dis­trict of Colum­bia saw a 36% drop.

The Data Book also high­lights major dis­par­i­ties among U.S. chil­dren along racial and eth­nic lines. Even as chil­dren of col­or grow in num­bers, rep­re­sent­ing the major­i­ty of U.S. births, they con­tin­ue to lag behind their white coun­ter­parts by almost every measure:

  • In 2010, Amer­i­can Indi­an (49%) and black (49%) chil­dren were near­ly twice as like­ly as their white coun­ter­parts (25%) to have no par­ent with secure employment.
  • While 58% of white fourth-graders had yet to achieve read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy in 2011, more than 80% of their Lati­no, African-Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can Indi­an class­mates lagged in this area.
  • While only 6% of white chil­dren had no health insur­ance in 2010, more than twice as many Amer­i­can Indi­an and Lati­nos shared the same plight, at 18 and 14%, respectively.
  • In 2010, 66% of black youths lived in sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies, exceed­ing their Amer­i­can Indi­an (52%), Lati­no (41%), white (24%) and Asian (16%) peers.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book includes the lat­est data on child well-being for every state, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and the nation. This infor­ma­tion is avail­able in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, which also con­tains the most recent nation­al, state and local data on hun­dreds of oth­er mea­sures of child well-being. The Data Cen­ter allows users to cre­ate rank­ings, maps and graphs for use in pub­li­ca­tions and on web­sites, and to view real-time infor­ma­tion on mobile devices.

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