Tuesday, June 27, 2006

17th Annual Kids Count Report Released 6-27-2006

Since 1990, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been releasing a yearly, state-by-state, statistical comparison of leading child health indicators, focusing on areas of vulnerability such as poverty, low birth weight, and teenage pregnancy. The report can be read in its entirety at the web site linked in the title.

The ten indicators studied are:

  • Percent low-birthweight babies
  • Infant mortality rate
  • Child death rate
  • Teen death rate
  • Teen birth rate
  • Percent of teens who are high-school dropouts
  • Percent of teens not attending school and not working
  • Percent of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment
  • Percent of children in poverty
  • Percent of children in single-parent families

According to the summary released with the report:

...the overriding picture that these 10 indicators present is one of little change since 2000....At the national level, only 4 of the 10 indicators of child well-being showed that conditions improved since 2000, while child well-being worsened on 3 indicators, and conditions were unchanged on 3 indicators. It should be noted, however, that many of these changes were very small and may be nothing more than random fluctuations.

Naturally, the portrait of child well-being varies among states, and state-level measures often mask important differences within a state. Of the 50 states, only 15 states improved on more than 5 of the 10 measures used here.

The portrait of change in child well-being since 2000 stands in stark contrast to the period just prior to 2000. Between 1996 and 2000, 8 of the 10 key indicators used in KIDS COUNT improved, and several improved dramatically. The improvement was experienced by every major racial group and in nearly all of the states.

Pre- and post-2000 trends are clearly illustrated by changes in the rate of child poverty since the mid-1990s. Between 1994 and 2000, the child poverty rate fell by 30 percent. This was the largest decrease in child poverty since the 1960s. Since 2000, however, the child poverty rate has inched up a percentage point.

Percentages vary quite widely from state to state:

...a summary of results from this year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book and highlights the enormous variation among the states. The rates of the worst states are nearly two to three times those of the best states on every indicator.

The importance of reporting state-level data is underscored by the fact that most measures in most states are statistically significantly different from the national value for each measure. In other words, the national value for a measure does not tell you much about most states.

There are wide and persistent disparities in ethnic groups:

The size of the gap between black and non-Hispanic white children varies by indicator, but the outcomes for black children are worse on every one of the 10 indicators. The same is true for American Indian and Alaskan Native children when compared to non-Hispanic white children.

An interesting look at the health of the next generation of Americans. Anyone interested in trends and the relationship between societal risk factors and poor child health should pay attention.



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