U.S. Must Improve Outcomes for Minority Youth as Demographics Shift, Report Says

By Evie Blad — April 01, 2014 2 min read
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As children from minority populations gradually become the majority in the United States, the country must address unequal outcomes and opportunities between racial and ethnic groups to ensure a prosperous future, a report released April 1 said.

In “Race for Results,” the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation created a new index that uses 12 educational, health, and economic factors to rank how children from major racial and ethnic groups fare in every state.

“It is clear that children of color—especially African-Americans, American Indians, and Latinos—are in serious trouble in numerous issue areas and in nearly every region of the country,” the report says. “Our nation cannot afford to leave this talent behind in hopes that these problems will remedy themselves.”

The report points to unequal access to community resources, good schools, and safe neighborhoods as contributing factors to persistent achievement gaps and health disparities. Many of those problems are rooted in intentional policies from the past, such as Jim Crow laws, that take focused and intentional efforts to undo, the report says.

And the stakes are high for everyone, the authors wrote. If the United States had closed the academic achievement gap between African-American and Latino students and their white peers by 1998, the country’s gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher, according to a 2009 estimate by management consulting firm McKinsey & Company that is cited in the Annie E. Casey report.

The state-by-state rankings are similar to the foundation’s popular Kids Count Data Book, but the Race for Results report disaggregates the data by race, presenting interesting state snapshots that could help inform policy discussions. Factors included in the index include low-birthweight births, preschool enrollment, 4th grade reading proficiency, the amount of children who live in areas where the poverty rate is less than 20 percent, and on-time high school graduation rates. Here’s how the report explains the methodology behind the new index:

Though a bit more complicated than using simple percentages, our index does standardize scores across 12 indicators that have different scales and distributions. We think that this is the best way to make accurate comparisons. These scores were then put on a scale of 0 to 1,000. Index values are presented for all states and racial groups for which there were enough children so that valid estimates were available. The higher the score, the greater the likelihood that children in that group are meeting milestones associated with success."

Nationally, Asian and Pacific Islander children fared the best under the index, followed closely by white children. African-American children fared the worst, slightly behind American Indian children. Here’s a chart pulled from the report.

Under the index, Hawaii scored highest in terms of its outcomes for African-American children, Texas for American Indian children, Delaware for Asian and Pacific Islander children, Alaska for Latino children. White children, who did pretty well everywhere, fared the best in Massachusetts.

American Indian children in South Dakota had the lowest index score of any group in any state—185 out of a possible score of 1,000, the report says.

The chapters also break down intragroup differences, showing, for example, that Japanese, Asian Indian, and Filipino children are the most likely within the Asian and Pacific Islander group to live in families with incomes at or above 200 percent of poverty. Children from southeast Asian ethnic groups—Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese‐ are on the other end of the spectrum, the report says.

The foundation recommends that policymakers use disaggregated data to best target limited resources toward programs that will “yield the greatest impact for children of color.”

You can read the full report here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.