American children are in many ways healthier and better educated today—even after the Great Recession—than they were a quarter-century ago, according to the, an index of child well-being released last month. But children’s and parents’ gains are precarious as families continue to sink into poverty, and wide racial gaps remain.
In its 25th annual report, the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation finds U.S. children improving on 10 out of 16 indicators, particularly in education and health. It analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies.
In nearly every state, half or more of 3- and 4-year-olds living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line are not attending early-childhood-education programs.
SOURCE: Kids Count Data Center
Among the findings: In 2012, 15 percent of children lived with parents who had never graduated high school, down from 16 percent in 2005. However, one in five Native American children and more than a third of Hispanic children live with parents who lack a diploma. Teenagers seem less likely to engage in risky behavior. Only 6 percent are reported abusing drugs or alcohol—down from 8 percent in 2005—and the birth rate for teenagers continues to drop, to 29 out of every 1,000 births, down from 40 per 1,000 births in 2005. In 2012, 93 percent of children had health insurance, up from 90 percent in 2008—but only 12 percent of Hispanic children and 16 percent of Native American youths.
In spite of their educational and family progress, U.S. children struggle within deepening poverty in much of the country. Across the board, children’s benchmarks of economic well-being fell or stagnated: 23 percent of children lived in poverty in 2012, 4 percentage points higher than in 2005, and one in 13 children live in communities or even regions of concentrated poverty. Their parents were less likely to have stable jobs in 2012 than in 2008, and the families were more likely to shoulder a high housing cost.
A version of this article appeared in the August 06, 2014 edition of Education Week as Gains Seen in Child Well-Being, Despite Rising Poverty