The 25th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book, released on July 22, reveals that between release of the first report in 1990 and 2012, there have been improvements in the education, safety, and health of the nation’s children, but more children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods and in single-parent families.
The Data Book contains 16 indicators covering four areas of child well-being, economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Data are presented for the nation and for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Minnesota currently rank highest for overall child well-being, while Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi rank lowest.
National trends in child well-being between 1990 and 2012 show that the lives of children have changed in both positive and negative ways. The population of children grew from 64 million to 74 million between 1990 and 2012, with a significant shift in racial and ethnic composition. Notably, 69% of children were white in 1990 compared to 53% in 2012, while the percentage of Hispanic children doubled from 12% to 24%.
A booming economy in the 1990s led to declines in child poverty, especially for African American and Hispanic children, but these trends began to reverse in the early 2000s and continued to worsen during and after the Great Recession. The official child poverty rate dropped from 21% in 1990 to 16% in 2000, but by 2010 it was back up to 22% and remains at that level.
Another indicator of economic well-being measured in the Data Book since 1990 is the percentage of children living in households that experience housing cost burden, meaning their families spent more than 30% of their pretax income on housing. In 1990 just 28% of children lived in households with a housing cost burden, but by 2012 the figure had risen to 38%. This percentage has fallen slightly since the peak of the housing crisis in 2010 when 41% of children lived in households with a housing cost burden. In 2012, 51% of African American children and 50% of Hispanic children lived in households experiencing housing cost burden, compared to 29% of non-Hispanic white children.
A worrisome trend identified in the Data Book is a jump in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes. In 1990, 25% of children lived in single-parent homes compared to 35% in 2012. Also troubling is the increase in the percentage of children living in census tracts with a poverty rate of 30% or more. The percentage of children living in high-poverty areas increased from 11% to 13%. African American (30%), American Indian (28%), and Hispanic (23%) children were much more likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than other children.
Education and health indicators show positive trends in the well-being of children. Since 1990, there has been steady improvement in the number of children attending preschool, and an increase in the number of schoolchildren proficient in reading and math. The teen birth rate is at a historic low, and death rates for children and teens have fallen as a result of medical advances and increased use of seat belts, car seats, and bike helmets. Finally, more children in 2012 had access to health insurance coverage than before the Great Recession.
The KIDS COUNT Data Center, an online resource, allows users to explore the latest data through interactive graphs, maps, and rankings at the national, state, and local levels. It is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org
The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book is at http://www.aecf.org/resources/the-2014-kids-count-data-book