U.S. children have seen improvement over the past five years in 11 of 16 areas that serve as key indicators of well-being, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF).
The organization focuses on “developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes.”
Its annual “Kids Count Data Book” assesses U.S. children’s well-being based on four indicators that “reflect a range of milestones and supportive conditions that young people need to succeed as adults” in each of the following categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family / community.
“Broadly speaking, children experienced gains in the Economic Well-Being and Health domains, but setbacks in the Education and Family and Community domains,” the report summarized.
Every area of economic well-being improved over the last five years.
For example, children living in poverty declined from 22 percent (2010) to 21 percent (2015), as did children living in homes burdened by high housing costs (41 percent to 33 percent over the same time period).
The report emphasized that “while all our indicators are important, the child poverty rate demands immediate action given the role that economic hardship plays in nearly every other indicator.”
All four health indicators either improved or stayed the same.
For example, children without health insurance declined from 8 percent (2010) to 5 percent (2015), while teens abusing drugs or alcohol dropped from 7 percent (2009-10) to 5 percent (2013-14).
Indicators for education and family / community saw mixed results, with two improving and two worsening in each category.
In education, the number of children not in school increased, while the percent of high schoolers not graduating on time dropped. Fourth-graders not proficient in reading declined, while the number of eighth-graders not proficient in math increased.
Family / community indicators experienced a similar dynamic.
Children living in single-parent homes and living in high poverty areas both increased. Children living in homes where the head of household did not graduate high school and the number of teenagers giving birth both declined.
“Despite tremendous gains during the economic recovery for children of all races and income levels, equities among children remain deep and stubbornly persistent,” the report stated. “On nearly all the measures that we track, African-American, American Indian and Latino children continued to experience negative outcomes at rates that were higher than the national average.”
A few exceptions were highlighted, including, “African-American children had the worst outcomes on half of the indicators. And yet they were more likely than the national average to be in school as young children, to have health insurance coverage, to abuse alcohol or drugs at lower rates and to live in families where the household head has a high school diploma.”
The top five states in overall child well-being are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota and Iowa.
The bottom five states are Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and Arizona.
The full report is available here.