Although many measures of child well-being in the United States improved in 2018, progress across all measures remained mixed and racial/ethnic disparities persisted, a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds.
Now in its thirty-first edition, the KIDS COUNT Data Book: 2020 State Trends in Child Well-Being (HTML or 41 pages, PDF) found that eleven of the sixteen indicators the study uses to measure child well-being in four areas had improved in 2018 from benchmark levels, including all four indicators of economic well-being — the percentage of children living in poverty, of children whose parents lack secure employment, of children in households with a high housing cost burden, and of teens who are neither in school nor working.
In the area of education, the percentage of children not in preschool and eighth-graders not proficient in math were unchanged, while the percentage of fourth-graders not proficient in reading and of high school students not graduating on time fell. In the area of health, the percentage of low-birthweight babies worsened, even as child and teen death and uninsurance rates fell and the obesity rate held steady. And in the area of family and community, the percentage of children in single-parent households ticked up, while the percentage of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods and in families with a head of household without a high school diploma, as well as the teen birth rate, fell.
The report also found that despite overall gains in well-being for children of all races and income levels, ethnic/racial inequities remained. According to the study, African-American and Native American children were more likely than Asian-American, Latinx, or white children to live in poverty, in a single-parent household, or in a high-poverty neighborhood, as well as to have parents who lack secure employment. African Americans also had higher rates of low-birthweight babies and child and teen deaths, while American Indian children were nearly three times more likely than the average child to lack health insurance and Latinx children were most likely not to be in preschool and to live with a head of household without a high school diploma.
On a state-by-state basis, Massachusetts ranked first in overall child well-being, followed by New Hampshire and Minnesota, while New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana ranked at the bottom of the list.
"Working to keep kids healthy and safe has never been more essential," said Casey Foundation president and CEO Lisa Hamilton. "Having consistent, reliable data to guide our decisions will be critical as we continue seeking to ensure the well-being of children, families, and communities throughout this challenging time and beyond."