Eighteen percent of U.S. kids live in poverty and nearly a third live in a household that’s burdened by high rent or mortgages, according to an annual report published Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Kids Count Data Book report ranked each state for child well-being based on measurements across four categories: Economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. New Hampshire ranked No. 1 overall, followed by Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey.
On the other end of the spectrum, New Mexico ranked dead last, followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona.
Overall, kids across the country have better odds of succeeding than they did 30 years ago, and one of the most positive trends is that there have been improvements over the last three decades in 11 of the 16 indicators they look for, Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the organization, told Patch this week.
“We’re seeing significant traction on things like high school graduation rates. It’s at an all-time high,” said Boissiere.
Furthermore, 95 percent of children have health insurance coverage and there’s been a large drop in the number of teen pregnancies.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses.
“Unfortunately we’re not seeing the same results for children of color,” said Boissiere. “African-American, Native American and Latino children in particular still face significant obstacles in this country.”
Poverty has one of the most profound effects on child well-being, she said. Of the roughly 74 million kids in the U.S., one in six lives in poverty. For African-American and American Indian children, that number is nearly twice as high though, at 33 percent. And for Latino children, it’s 26 percent. By contrast, just 11 percent for white students live in poverty.
And while the national average for children who live with a parent who doesn’t have a stable job is 27 percent, that number is far higher for children of color: 42 percent for African-Americans, 47 percent for American Indians and 32 percent for Latinos. For whites and Asian and Pacific Islanders, that number is 21 percent.
A similar trend is true when it comes to children living in households with a high housing cost, meaning at least 30 percent of the household’s pre-tax income goes toward housing costs.
The national average is 31 percent and that number is far lower for whites at 22 percent. But it’s far higher for children of color: 45 percent for African-Americans, 30 percent for American Indians, 31 percent for Asian and Pacific islanders and 42 percent for Latinos.
“That doesn’t leave much for clothes and transportation and all these other things that they need,” said Boissiere.
The organization noted that states where the child growth population outpaces the national average are located in the South and West, particularly in Texas, Florida and California. States where the disparities are more prevalent also tend to be located in the South and Southwest, Boissiere said.
States need to invest in kids, the organization urged. Boissiere highlighted several programs that she said have been proven to be effective in helping lift up families financially. She pointed to the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.
“Essentially what they do is allow working parents to have more of their income available to provide for their children,” she said.
Of the 6 million families that benefited from the earned income tax credit last year, about half of those were children.
“We know what works and where we need to continue to invest in those policies that work,” she said.