The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the newest edition of its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, which tracks the well-being of children across the country. The researchers found that despite the Great Recession, many aspects of child well-being have shown improvement between 2005 and 2010. However, inequities among children persist across racial and economic lines, and progress in some areas has stalled. The report is divided into four content domains composed of four indicators each, focusing on what children need most to prosper: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
According to the authors, the education and health domains show improvement, while the economic well-being indicators show continuing hardship, with the number of children living in poverty reaching 15.7 million in 2010, an increase of 2.4 million children since 2005. All four economic well-being indicators (children in poverty, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, children whose parents lack secure employment and teens not in school and not working) deteriorated since 2005.
The study highlights affordable housing as a key indicator of economic well-being, noting that 41% of children across the country live in households with high cost burdens, and housing costs represent the largest basic expense faced by families. The number of children living in households with a high housing cost burden rose from 27.4 million in 2005 to 30.1 million by 2010. Children in California are the most likely to live in a housing cost burdened household, with 54% of all families in that state spending more than 30% of their income on housing. North Dakota families are least likely to face a housing cost burden; nonetheless, one in five North Dakota children lives in a family with a housing cost burden.
Conversely, families have experienced gains in the areas of education and health. All four education domain indicators have shown improvement between 2005 and 2010, with the number of children lacking proficiency in both math and reading falling, and the proportion of high school students not graduating on time decreasing. Health among children also continues to improve, with lower child mortality rates and higher rates of health insurance coverage.
The family and community domain indicates mixed progress. The authors found that the percentage of children living in single-parent families increased from 32% in 2005 to 34% in 2010, with 66% of African-American children and 24% of non-Hispanic Whites living in such homes. It was also found that by 2010, 11% of children nationwide lived in high-poverty areas, an increase of 1.6 million children since 2000. Minorities were much more likely to live in high poverty areas than non-Hispanic White children.
The authors conclude that although there has been significant progress in many areas of child well-being over the past few decades, there remains substantial room for improvement. There are still millions of American youth who grow up with risk factors that impede upon their success as adults. The authors stress the importance of strengthening the economy, communities, and families in order to reduce child poverty and improve outcomes.
A full copy of the 2012 Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT Data Book can be found here.