Although they grew up in the midst of an economic downturn, today's teenagers are seeing record improvements in many measures of health and education, an annual report from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation finds.
According to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book (56 pages, PDF) one out of five children (22 percent) in the United States lived in poverty in 2014 — the same rate as in 2013 but significantly higher than the 2008 rate of 18 percent. The report, which measured child well-being in four areas — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community — also found that nearly one in three children lived in households where neither parent had full-time year-round employment, and that the percentage of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods rose to 14 percent in 2010-14, up from 11 percent in 2006-2010, with African-American children living in high-poverty areas and in single-parent families at rates twice the national average. The report also found that the rates of children without health insurance coverage improved 40 percent between 2008 and 2014, with some states recording declines of more than 60 percent, and that Native American children were twice as likely as the average child to lack coverage.
In addition, the report found that for youth born after 1995, teen birth rates fell 40 percent, to an all-time low, between 2008 and 2014, while the share of teens abusing drugs and alcohol dropped 38 percent, and the percentage of high school students not graduating on time fell 28 percent, with declines in all but three states. Despite these improvements, the report found that among recent high school graduates, the unemployment rate was 28 percent for African Americans, 17 percent for Latinos, and 15 percent for whites, while those with jobs earned just $10.66 an hour on average, lower than the average wage in 2000 when adjusted for inflation.
At the state level, Minnesota ranked first overall in child well-being for the second straight year, followed by Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, while Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada, and Alabama ranked lowest.
"With rising higher education costs, stagnant wages, and a flimsy social safety net, teens are less likely than [were] their parents or grandparents to obtain economic security," said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. "For the sake of our economy and our society, we must reverse this trend to ensure that today's youth — who will be the next generation of workers, parents, and community leaders — have a successful transition to adulthood and beyond."