Published Online: March 20, 2002
Published in Print: March 20, 2002, as Children & Families


Children & Families

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Children's Well-Being

Although the child-poverty rate in the United States declined slightly during the 1990s—from 18 percent to 17 percent—many states actually experienced an increase in the percentage of children living in poverty, according to an analysis of a survey that was conducted along with the 2000 U.S. Census.

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"Children at Risk: State Trends 1990-2000" is a special report from Kids Count, a project of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report presents findings from a supplemental survey of 700,000 households conducted in 2000.

The data show that child-poverty rates declined in 29 states and rose in 16. Alaska had the highest increase, with a 30 percent jump, but its rate of 13 percent in 2000 was still below the national average. Colorado, South Dakota, and Minnesota had the largest decreases—each exceeding 30 percent.

"Despite the enormous wealth in the United States, our child-poverty rate is among the highest in the developed world," the report says.

The report also focuses on 10 other indicators of children's well-being, including the percentage of children living with the head of a household who is a high school dropout and the percentage of children with limited English skills.

Overall, eight of the indicators improved, but in some cases, the change was small. Only one of the indicators grew worse in all 50 states and the District of Columbia: the percentage of children living in single-parent families. Nationally, the proportion rose from 24 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2000.

The report notes the current effort among policymakers to bolster marriage rates.

"Much of the public interest is linked to the fact that children growing up in single-parent households typically do not have access to the same economic or human resources as children growing up in two-parent families," the report says.

The survey shows large drops during the 1990s in the percentage of children living in households without telephones—a decline of 50 percent—and the percentage of children living in households without motor vehicles, which decreased by 22 percent.

In 2000, 4 percent of children lived in homes without phones, and 7 percent lived in households without cars. "Such isolation," the report says, "leaves families disconnected from economic opportunity, meaningful support systems, and the services and institutions that help families succeed."

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 21, Issue 27, Page 6

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