The well-being of American children improved only modestly during the most prosperous years of this decade, a new report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.
According to the twentieth-annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, six of ten key indicators showed slight improvements since 2000, including infant mortality and high school dropout rates. However, the improvements are not as robust as improvements in the indicators were at the end of the 1990s. For example, the poverty rate for children remains between 17 percent and 19 percent so far this decade, which means that 900,000 more children were living in poverty nationally in 2007 than in 2000, said Laura Beavers, coordinator of the national KIDS COUNT project.
Indeed, while the most recent data in the report are from 2007, the flattening of median income and the increasing poverty level suggest that conditions have only worsened since the beginning of the recession. "Our take-away is that even going into the recession, the economic outlook for a lot of families was dire," Beavers told the Washington Post.
Looking across all well-being indicators, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Utah rank highest, while Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi rank the lowest. The five states with the biggest improvement in their rankings between 1999-2000 and 2006-07 are New York, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, and Illinois. The six states with the biggest drops over the same period are Montana, Maine, Alaska, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Vermont.
This year's report includes an essay, "Counting What Counts: Taking Results Seriously for Vulnerable Children and Families" (18 pages, PDF), in which the foundation calls on federal leaders, state and local decision makers, and children's advocates to transform how they use data to improve the lives of children. "Better futures for children will not occur simply by combining better data, stronger data analysis, and an increased use of new technology," said Casey Foundation president and CEO Douglas W. Nelson. "But by counting what counts in the lives of children and families, we can better hold ourselves accountable to our national commitment to meet the needs and boost the outcomes for less-fortunate children. It's time to focus on the evolving needs of the next generation of millions of children whose future well-being is on the line."