Each year since 1990, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a KIDS COUNT® Data Book, which assesses child well-being in each state based on 10 key statistical indicators.
This study compares the performance of a 10-indicator KIDS COUNT Index of child well-being to a 28-indicator index (FCD-Land) and a 36-item index (America’s Children).
These comparisons can help inform the development of new indicators and indices of child well-being, including the early-stage efforts to generate a global measure of child well-being.
While the KIDS COUNT, FCD-Land and America’s Children indices all registered improvement in child well-being, the size of the improvements differed. From 1990 to 2000, the KIDS COUNT Index showed a 14% improvement in child well-being compared to 7% for the FCD-Land Index. Between 1995 and 2000, the KIDS COUNT Index showed a 12% improvement compared to 9% for the America’s Children Index and 8% for the FCD-Land Index.
Determining which indicators are responsible for the differences among the three indices fell beyond the scope of this study. However, the report’s authors note that the FCD-Land and America’s Children indices included more dimensions of well-being, which led to differences in these indices versus the 10-item KIDS COUNT Index.
Despite these differences, researchers found enough similarities between the KIDS COUNT and the broader indices to suggest that the 10-item KIDS COUNT Index reflects the most important dimensions of child well-being.
About the Series
This publication is part of the KIDS COUNT Working Paper series, which elevates discussions about data gaps, results and trends related to the KIDS COUNT database.
Is the 10-item KIDS COUNT index a useful tool for gauging child well-being?
Findings & Stats
Similar but Different
The three indices contain measurements that seem similar but actually differ in how they are defined or tracked. For example: FCD-Land Children in Single-Parent Families and KIDS COUNT Single-Parent Families with Children both measure the living arrangements of kids. The FCD-Land measurement — which tracks the share of kids under age 18 who are living in families headed by a single parent — increased by 4% between 1990 and 2000. The KIDS COUNT measurement — which tracks the share of all families with “own children” under age 18 living in the household who are headed by a person — male or female — without a spouse at home — increased 14.2% over the same period.
About the FCD-Land Index
The FCD-Land Index of Child and Youth Well-Being charts the annual change in 28 national-level social indicators and reports the results as a single number. The main purpose of the Index is to address how children in the United States are faring over time.
About the KIDS COUNT Index
The Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 10 key measures to consistently measure the educational, social, economic, and health status of children state-by-state since 1990. Indicators are reported individually and used collectively to rank states in terms of overall child well-being.
About the America's Children Index
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics’ America's Children is an annual report that shares national-level social indicators related to the well-being of children and youth. To create the America’s Children Index, researchers took individual indicators within the report and converted them into a single index. This composite index covers the 1995 to 2000 time period due to data gaps in reports prior to 1995.
Statements & Quotations
Despite the emergence of regular reports containing child and family data, there is no agreement on specific criteria to measure well-being.
If all the indices reveal similar trends, we can be more confident about how children fared in the past decade.
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