Yesterday we highlighted a new report — the “2018 Kids Count Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being,” produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. — that suggests poor counting in the previous U.S. Census could negatively affect funding that supports early childhood learning and development.
Interestingly, the authors are not only concerned about future data — they explore historical data to determine how states rank “annually on overall child well-being using an index of key indicators.” Specifically, “The KIDS COUNT index uses four domains to capture what children need most to thrive: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health and (4) Family and Community.”
U.S. Census: Behind the Numbers
While some of the data show that conditions for children in the U.S. are improving, much of the data raises troubling questions. Important highlights include:
- Children in Poverty: “Nationally, 19 percent of children (14.1 million) lived in families with incomes below the poverty line in 2016, down from 22 percent (15.7 million) in 2010, representing 1.6 million fewer kids in poverty. After climbing for several years, the child poverty rate has fallen for four consecutive years, with 2016 representing the largest single-year decline since the recession.”
- Children Whose Parents Lack Secure Employment: “In 2016, nearly three in 10 children (20.7 million) lived in families where no parent had full-time, year-round employment. The rate of parents without secure employment has steadily declined since 2010. Despite this positive trend, many families are still struggling economically.”
- Young Children Not in School: “During 2014–16, 4.3 million kids ages 3–4 were not in school, representing more than half (52 percent) of all children in that age group. The rate of attendance has remained unchanged since 2009–11.” Further: “Roughly half of African-American, white and multiracial 3- and 4-year-olds were not in any school programs; the percentage was slightly lower for Asian and Pacific Islander kids (47 percent). The rates were noticeably higher for Latino (59 percent) and American Indian children (57 percent).”
- Fourth-Graders Not Proficient in Reading: “An alarming 65 percent of fourth-graders in public school were reading below proficiency in 2017, a slight improvement from 2009, when 68 percent scored below proficient.”
- Low Birth-Weight Babies: “Nationally, low birth-weight babies represented 8.2 percent of all live births in 2016. After gradually increasing over time, the percentage of low birth-weight babies has remained relatively stable for the past several years and is now slightly below the four-decade high of 8.3 percent in 2006.”
- Children in Single-Parent Families: “The percentage of children living in single- parent families worsened slightly between 2010 and 2016. In 2016, 35 percent of children lived in single-parent families.”
- Children in Families Where the Household Head Lacks a High School Diploma: “In 2016, 14 percent of children lived in households headed by an adult without a high school diploma. While that is only slightly better than the rate in 2010, it is a substantial improvement since 1990, when 22 percent of children lived with parents who lacked a high school diploma.”
The report offers excellent state-level data in each of the main categories.