The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new report that details the overall state of children’s lives in US states.
“Kids Count: State Trends in Child Well-Being,” begins by acknowledging that the past few years have brought some positive news for families and children: economic growth, 13 million new jobs, increased rates of health insurance, rising graduation rates, and fewer teens abusing alcohol and drugs. In part, these improvements are the result of federal, state, and local policies that are helping generations of young people.
However, if these statistics are broken down, observers see a far less rosy picture. The overall unemployment rate is far above the national average for African Americans and Latinos, for workers without a college degree and for young adults. The child poverty rate remains high; college prices are rising; far too many families are struggling to provide a better life for their children. The next president, the report suggests, will have rare opportunities to forge bipartisan solutions that address poverty and increase opportunity for today’s parents and young people.
Going forward, low-income families must be given the opportunities for their children to succeed. Poverty can impede young children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development and contribute to poor health. Children who live in poverty are far more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant at too early of an age, and face poor employment outcomes. The report urges that policymakers find a solution to dramatically reduce child poverty, something that over 40% of children endure.
The well-being of children is tied with the economic obstacles facing workers at the lower-end of the income scale. Nearly 26% of those unemployed have been without a job for six months or more, most of these people tend to be workers without a college degree. Moreover, wages have not returned to pre-recession levels; the median income today is 13% lower than it was in 2004. The report urges that more opportunities be created to integrate these lower-educated workers back into the economy to reverse the trends of poverty, unemployment, and wage stagnation.
The income-gap among parents is fueling the disparities between children. Children from higher-income families are often far more developed and have more extensive vocabularies than their peers from lower-income backgrounds. And, because of increased residential segregation, higher-income children are able to attend better, highly resourced schools with smaller classes and more experienced teachers. These trends of social and academic segregation have disproportionately affected African-American and Latino children, reducing their opportunities to succeed from the earliest ages.
The report advises that reduced opportunity for children raised in low-income families and segregated communities results in a huge loss of human potential. Not only do these trends betray the United States’ aspirations and values, but it diminishes our nation’s human capital and poses a grave economic and moral threat to the future viability of the nation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers to reverse these trends by coming together and designing solutions with “American values” at their core to lift millions of young people and families.
For interested readers, the full report is available online.