As the nation’s economy recovers, America’s children are showing some signs of improvement despite an ever-growing poverty rate, according to new data in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book.
Children continue to progress in the areas of education and health. From roughly 2005 to 2011, the teen birth rate dropped by 15 percent to a historic low. The rate of high school students not graduating in four years saw an almost 20 percent decline, as did the child and teen death rates. The percentage of children without health insurance decreased by 30 percent.
Although the economic well-being of the nation’s children improved slightly from 2010 to 2011, the negative impact of the recession remains evident. In particular, younger children are disproportionately affected by the lingering effects of the recession: The poverty rate among children younger than 3 is 26 percent; among 3- to 5-year-olds, it is 25 percent - higher than the national average for all kids.
“Children are our nation’s most precious resource, as well as our future leaders, employees, citizens and parents,” said Patrick McCarthy, the foundation’s president and CEO. “The early years of their lives are a critical juncture in their development. As our economic recovery continues, we cannot lose sight of doing whatever it takes to help kids, particularly kids in low-income families, reach their full potential - and that includes laying a solid foundation from the moment they are born.”
At the state level, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts rank highest for overall child well-being, while Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico rank lowest. The number of children in high-poverty neighborhoods continued to climb in 40 states and varies widely, from a fraction of a percent in Wyoming to 24 percent in Mississippi.
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia saw improvements in math proficiency, but a considerable gap lies between Massachusetts, with 49 percent of its eighth-graders not proficient in the subject, and Mississippi, with 81 percent.
“The progress we’re seeing in child health and education is encouraging, but the economic data clearly speak to the considerable challenges we still face,” said Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation’s associate director for policy reform and data. “We need to do better and be smarter about investing in effective programs and services to help ensure all kids get the best possible start in life.”
The 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 in the newly redesigned 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.
For information about the The Annie E. Casey Foundation, visit www.aecf.org.