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This Week in PubHub: Child Well-Being

September 01, 2010

(Kyoko Uchida manages PubHub, the Foundation Center’s online catalog of foundation-sponsored publications. In her last post, she looked at four reports that explore options for funding the news.)

Summer is over and America's children are heading back to school. How are they doing? This week in PubHub, we're featuring four reports that examine the well-being of our children and youth.

The 2010 edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Book provides state-by-state data in ten categories, as well as an analyses of national trends. According to the report, overall child well-being has stagnated since 2000, with five indicators (including infant mortality and teen birth rate) showing improvement and three (percentage of low-birth-weight babies, children living in poverty, number of children in single-parent families) having deteriorated. Especially worrisome is the upward trend in the child poverty rate, which fell 30 percent between 1994 and 2000, but rose 6 percent between 2000 and 2008.

Nowhere is child poverty more dire than in the South, where 2.4 million children live in households with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, a recent study by the Southern Education Foundation finds. The Worst of Times: Children in Extreme Poverty in the South and Nation, a report based on the SEF study, examines the percentage of children in extreme poverty by state and county and estimates that, between 2008 and 2010, extreme child poverty increased by 25 percent in the South, 41 percent in the West, 19 percent in the Northeast, and 23 percent in the Midwest. An SEF analysis of more than 2,700 school districts also reveals the pronounced gap between the educational needs of disadvantaged children and federal funding and per pupil expenditures.

As seen in the distribution of students in high-poverty districts, communities of color are disproportionately represented among the poor. Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences, a new report from the Urban Institute, finds that while 37 percent of children experience poverty before age 17 and 10 percent are persistently poor, African-American children are about 2.5 times more likely than white children to experience poverty and seven times more likely to be persistently poor. How does childhood poverty affect adult outcomes? According to the report, the number of years spent in poverty as a child is closely correlated to lower high school graduation rates, higher teen birth rates, and reduced employment prospects over time. Focusing resources on low-income parents in the form of training, work supports, and/or home visiting programs, the report suggests, could improve children's future prospects.

America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, a data book from the National Council of La Raza, notes that, if current trends persist, Latinos/Hispanics, another minority group overrepresented among the poor, will comprise 44 percent of all poor children by 2030. The report found that 59 percent of Latino/Hispanic children are members of low-income families, and that by eighth grade 42 percent of Latino/Hispanic kids score below basic reading levels (while only 55 percent graduate from high school). Latino/Hispanic children and youth also fare worse than other racial/ethnic groups in terms of childhood obesity, teen pregnancy rates, and access to health care, and are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system.

Given these findings, the well-being of our children -- our future -- should be of concern to all. Indeed, many would argue that the situation can only be rectified by targeted policies and programs that address the persistent poverty and lack of opportunity confronting so many of our young people. Identifying strategies and practices that deliver concrete results is another story. Do you know of any programs/initiatives that are delivering positive outcomes for our children? We'd love to hear about them.

And don't forget to check out PubHub, where you can browse and search more than 650 reports related to children and youth.

-- Kyoko Uchida

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