By Alicia VanOrman
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book on June 13, 2017. The KIDS COUNT Data Book—now in its 28th year—provides an up-to-date and detailed picture of how children are faring in the United States, nationally and in each state. The KIDS COUNT Data Book features a comprehensive index of child well-being and includes a national profile and state-level rankings across four content domains: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health, and (4) Family and Community. The 2017 Data Book reveals many bright spots for children and family well-being during the economic recovery following the Great Recession, yet room for improvement remains in many areas.
Population Reference Bureau (PRB) has played an instrumental role in the KIDS COUNT Data Book since 1992. U.S. Programs staff provide feedback on the design and measurement of the KIDS COUNT index of child well-being and compile the data presented in the Data Book.
Children’s Well-Being Is Improving Following the Great Recession
Since 2010, outcomes for children improved on 11 out of the 16 indicators that are tracked as part of the Data Book.
- All four economic well-being indicators improved since 2010. Although there has been significant improvement since 2010, children and families have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. More children are living in poverty and more children have parents who lack secure employment than in 2008.
- High school graduation rates reached another all-time high in 2014/2015 with 83 percent of high school students graduating on time. In 2010/2011, 79 percent of high school students graduated on time.
- More children have health insurance coverage. In 2015, only 5 percent of children did not have health insurance coverage compared to 8 percent in 2010. In 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, the share of children without health insurance was 5 percent or less. Mostly due to expanded access to health insurance, children’s insurance coverage has improved in 44 states since 2010.
- The teen birth rate continued its dramatic decline, reaching another historic low. The rate of teenage childbearing declined by 54 percent, dropping from 34 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2010 to 22 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2015.
Geographic Differences in Child Well-Being Remain Wide
Despite broad improvements in child well-being since 2010, stark differences across states remain. States in the Northeast tend to have the highest levels of overall child well-being and states in the South and Southwest tend to have lower levels of overall child well-being. State-level gaps in child well-being reflect variation in the resources available to children as well as state- and local-level policy variation. Such state-level variation shows bright spots for child well-being and areas for continued improvement.
- The share of children whose parents lack secure parental employment improved nationally and in nearly all states since 2010. Yet, 37 percent of children in Mississippi and West Virginia have parents who lack secure employment compared with 20 percent in North Dakota and Utah.
- Less than one-third of eighth graders in public schools are proficient in mathematics. At 17 percent, Alabama has the lowest share of eighth grade students who are proficient in mathematics; Massachusetts is the only state with more than half of eighth graders proficient in math at 51 percent.
- In 2015, the child and teenage mortality rate was 25 deaths per 100,000 children ages 1 to 19. Montana had the highest child and teen death rate at 43 deaths per 100,000 children and Connecticut had the lowest rate at 15 child and teenage deaths per 100,000 children.
- Nationally, 14 percent of children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Vermont and Wyoming have the lowest share of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods at only 1 percent, compared to Mississippi with the highest share at 27 percent.
Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Child Well-Being Persist
Across the 16 indicators of children’s well-being, African American, American Indian, and Latino children experienced positive gains since 2010, yet deep inequities continue to persist. Children of color experience negative outcomes at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white children on nearly all indicators that are tracked in the Data Book. These large racial and ethnic gaps in child well-being indicate that children of color continue to face steep barriers to success.
In October 2017, the Annie E. Casey Foundation will release the second edition of Race for Results, which explores how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels. U.S. Programs staff at PRB will play an integral role in developing this report.
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book demonstrates that in many respects children’s well-being in the United States is improving. The data also show that substantial work remains to be done to secure a bright future for all children and young adults. For the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.
Alicia VanOrman is a research associate in U.S. Programs.