Twenty-fifth Edition of KIDS COUNT Data Book Highlights Improvements Since 1990

Posted July 22, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsrelease twentyfiftheditiondatabookhighlights 2014

Nation­al, State Pol­i­cy Changes Have Result­ed in Pos­i­tive Changes for Chil­dren, but More are Liv­ing in High-Pover­ty Neigh­bor­hoods and in Sin­gle-Par­ent Families

Demo­graph­ic, social and eco­nom­ic changes com­bined with major pol­i­cy devel­op­ments have affect­ed the lives of low­er-income chil­dren in both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ways since 1990, accord­ing to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th edi­tion of its annu­al KIDS COUNT Data Book. The good news is that there has been steady improve­ment in the num­bers of chil­dren attend­ing preschool and a decline in the num­ber of school­child­ren not pro­fi­cient in read­ing and math.

There also is a pos­i­tive trend in parental edu­ca­tion that ben­e­fits kids: A small­er per­cent­age of chil­dren live in fam­i­lies in which no par­ent has a high school diplo­ma — from 22% in 1990 to 15% in 2012. In addi­tion, the teen birth rate is at a his­toric low and the death rates for chil­dren and teens has fall­en as a result of med­ical advances and increased usage of seat belts, car seats and bike helmets.

Wor­ri­some trends include a rise in the offi­cial child pover­ty rate as defined by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. Although the rate dropped from 18 to 16% from 1990 to 2000, the rate had reached 22% by 2010 and has remained at rough­ly that lev­el. In 2012, near­ly 16.4 mil­lion kids were liv­ing in pover­ty. The per­cent­age of chil­dren liv­ing in sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies has risen sig­nif­i­cant­ly — in 1990, 25% of chil­dren lived in a sin­gle-par­ent house­hold and by 2012 the fig­ure had risen to 35%. Since 1990, the rate of chil­dren grow­ing up in poor com­mu­ni­ties has also increased, with 13% of chil­dren liv­ing in a neigh­bor­hood where the pover­ty rate is 30% or more.

With advances in neu­ro­science, as well as sol­id research on what works, we now know more than ever before about how to give chil­dren a good start and help them meet major devel­op­men­tal mile­stones through­out child­hood,” said Patrick McCarthy, the Foundation’s pres­i­dent and CEO. On sev­er­al fronts, we’ve seen the dif­fer­ence that smart poli­cies, effec­tive pro­grams and high qual­i­ty prac­tice can make in improv­ing child well-being and long term out­comes. We should all be encour­aged by the improve­ments in many well-being indi­ca­tors in the health, edu­ca­tion and safe­ty areas.”

But we must do much more,” McCarthy said. All of us, in every sec­tor — busi­ness, gov­ern­ment, non­prof­its, faith-based groups, fam­i­lies — need to con­tin­ue to work togeth­er to ensure that all chil­dren have the chance to suc­ceed. We should strength­en our com­mit­ment and redou­ble our efforts until every child in Amer­i­ca devel­ops to full poten­tial. We sim­ply can­not afford to endan­ger the futures of the mil­lions of low-income chil­dren who don’t have the chance to expe­ri­ence high-qual­i­ty ear­ly child­hood pro­grams and the thriv­ing neigh­bor­hoods that high­er-income fam­i­lies take for granted.”

To exam­ine the more recent trends between 2005 and 2012, the new Data Book uses 16 indi­ca­tors across four areas – eco­nom­ic well-being, edu­ca­tion, health and fam­i­ly and community.

  • Chil­dren con­tin­ue to progress in the areas of edu­ca­tion and health. All four edu­ca­tion indi­ca­tors cov­er­ing mile­stones such as preschool atten­dance and high school grad­u­a­tion showed steady improve­ments. Child health also improved across all four indi­ca­tors, and more chil­dren have access to health insur­ance cov­er­age than before the reces­sion. There were also drops in child and teen mor­tal­i­ty and teen sub­stance abuse. The per­cent­age of low-birth­weight babies declined slightly.
  • Eco­nom­ic progress still lags, even after the end of the reces­sion. Three of the four eco­nom­ic well-being indi­ca­tors were worse than the mid-decade years, which is not sur­pris­ing giv­en the sever­i­ty of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis over the past six years. How­ev­er, the major­i­ty of the indi­ca­tors in this area improved slight­ly at the nation­al lev­el since the 2013 Data Book, indi­cat­ing mod­est but hope­ful signs of recovery.
  • Mixed pic­ture on fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty indi­ca­tors. The teen birth rate is at a his­toric low. There was a small drop in the per­cent­age of chil­dren liv­ing in fam­i­lies where the house­hold head lacks a high school diplo­ma. How­ev­er, there was an increase in the per­cent­age of chil­dren liv­ing in sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies and more chil­dren liv­ing in high-pover­ty areas.

At the state lev­el, Mass­a­chu­setts, Ver­mont, Iowa, New Hamp­shire and Min­neso­ta rank high­est for over­all child well-being, while Ari­zona, Louisiana, Neva­da, New Mex­i­co and Mis­sis­sip­pi rank low­est. Three south­west­ern states — Ari­zona, Neva­da and New Mex­i­co — are once again in the bot­tom five for the over­all rank­ings. Oth­er state highlights:

  • While three New Eng­land states rank with­in the top five for over­all well-being among the 50 states, the top five states in the area of eco­nom­ic well-being are in the heart­land and Plain States regions — North Dako­ta, South Dako­ta, Iowa, Min­neso­ta and Nebraska.
  • The biggest improve­ments in over­all rank­ings com­pared to last year’s Data Book are seen in Iowa, Utah, Illi­nois, Indi­ana and Ten­nessee. The biggest drops in over­all rank­ings are seen in Wyoming, New Hamp­shire (mov­ing from #1 to #4), New Jer­sey, Mon­tana and Oklahoma.
  • Forty-nine states and the Dis­trict of Colum­bia saw improve­ments since 2005 in math pro­fi­cien­cy, but a con­sid­er­able gap lies between Mass­a­chu­setts with only 45% of its eighth-graders not pro­fi­cient in the sub­ject, and Alaba­ma with 80%.

The Foundation’s part­ner­ship with state and nation­al advo­cates for chil­dren has thrived since our first Data Book and has brought steady atten­tion to how kids are far­ing, said Lau­ra Speer, Casey’s asso­ciate direc­tor for pol­i­cy reform and advo­ca­cy. The Data Book high­lights the achieve­ments of advo­cates across the coun­try that have been crit­i­cal in advanc­ing increased invest­ment in effec­tive pro­grams and ser­vices to help ensure that kids get the best pos­si­ble start in life.”

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book fea­tures the lat­est data on child well-being for every state, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and the nation. This infor­ma­tion is avail­able on the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, which also con­tains the most recent nation­al, state and local data on hun­dreds of mea­sures of child well-being. Data Cen­ter users can cre­ate rank­ings, maps and graphs for use in pub­li­ca­tions and on web­sites, and view real-time infor­ma­tion on mobile devices.

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