Unsafe Communities a Reality for Millions of U.S. Kids

Posted April 19, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Six percent of U.S. kids live in communities perceived as unsafe by their parents.

In 2015 – 2016, 6% of chil­dren — 4.4 mil­lion kids total — lived in com­mu­ni­ties per­ceived unsafe by their parents.

The like­li­hood of chil­dren liv­ing in neigh­bor­hoods con­sid­ered unsafe by their par­ents varies by state. Rates dip to a low of 2% in North Dako­ta and Min­neso­ta and climb five times high­er — to 10% — in Cal­i­for­nia and New York.

Race and eth­nic­i­ty also make a dif­fer­ence. African-Amer­i­can and Lati­no chil­dren are three times more like­ly than their white peers to feel unsafe in their home com­mu­ni­ty, while Asian and Pacif­ic Islander chil­dren are twice as like­ly to feel this way.

All chil­dren should live in safe, sup­port­ed neigh­bor­hoods — and the research explains why. Com­pared to their less for­tu­nate peers, kids who feel safe in their home­towns have stronger con­nec­tions with fam­i­ly, friends and the com­mu­ni­ty. These chil­dren are more engaged in after-school pro­grams, vol­un­teer­ing and sports, and they tend to per­form bet­ter in school and in life.

At the same time: Liv­ing in an unsafe neigh­bor­hood can dis­rupt and detract from a child’s healthy devel­op­ment. Fam­i­lies who live in unsafe neigh­bor­hoods expe­ri­ence high­er rates of infant mor­tal­i­ty and low birth­weight babies. Unsafe envi­ron­ments are also linked to high­er rates of juve­nile delin­quen­cy, aca­d­e­m­ic fail­ure, child abuse and neglect.

Children who live in unsafe communities

Access more fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center:

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