(June 2016) The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book on June 21, 2016. The KIDS COUNT Data Book—now in its 27th year—provides an up-to-date and detailed picture of how children are faring in the United States, nationally and in each state. The KIDS COUNT Data Book features a comprehensive index of child well-being and includes a national profile and state-level rankings across four content domains: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health, and (4) Family and Community. The 2016 Data Book reveals that the current generation of children and teens are making strides in health and education, yet families with children continue to face significant challenges recovering from the Great Recession.

Population Reference Bureau (PRB) has played an instrumental role in the KIDS COUNT Data Book since 1992. U.S. Programs staff provide feedback on the design and measurement of the KIDS COUNT index of child well-being and compile the data presented in the Data Book. This year, ongoing research at PRB on teenage and young adult mortality in the United States helped provide deeper insight to the Casey Foundation and the KIDS COUNT state grantees about child and teenage health trends.

Bright Spots Show Progress for Children’s Well-Being

  • Births to teenage mothers continue to fall, reaching historic lows. In 2014, there were 24 births per 1,000 teenage girls ages 15 to 19—a 40 percent improvement relative to 2008, when there were 40 births per 1,000 teenage girls.
  • Fewer teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol. Five percent of teenagers reported abusing drugs and/or alcohol in 2013/2014, down from 8 percent in 2007/2008.
  • High school graduation rates are at an all-time high with 82 percent of high school students graduating on time in 2012/2013. In 2007/2008, just 75 percent of high school students completed high school on time.
  • More children have health insurance coverage. Six percent of children did not have health insurance coverage in 2014 compared to 10 percent in 2008.

Troubling Trends for Children’s Economic Security Remain a Concern

  • The child poverty rate has not recovered to prerecession levels. Twenty-two percent of children were living in poverty in 2014, up from 18 percent in 2008.
  • The share of children whose parents lack secure employment has improved since 2010, but remains higher than the share in 2008. In 2014, three out of 10 children have no parent with regular, full-time employment.
  • A growing share of children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods—where at least 30 percent of the neighborhood was poor. In 2010-2014, 14 percent of children were living in high-poverty neighborhoods compared to 11 percent of children in 2006-2010.

Suicide Becomes the Second-Leading Cause of Death Among Teenagers Ages 15 to 19

As the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows, the child and teenage death rate has improved since 2008. However, a more in-depth analysis of teenage mortality by PRB reveals alarming trends that are masked by the general improvement in child and teenage death rates. PRB’s U.S. Programs staff analyzed mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that while the overall teenage mortality rate has been declining, the teenage suicide rate has been increasing since 2007. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among teenagers ages 15 to 19 in the United States. The higher overall suicide rate is driven by a rising suicide rate among teenage girls and growth in the use of suffocation as a method of suicide. Despite increases in the suicide rate, the United States is making progress in keeping children safe from harm—the overall improvement in teenage mortality is the result of large declines in traffic accidents and homicide death rates.

Racial/Ethnic and Geographic Disparities in Child Well-Being Are Pervasive

African American, American Indian, and Latino children continue to experience negative outcomes at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white children on nearly all indicators that are tracked in the Data Book. Children in the upper Midwest and New England are doing better than children in the South and Southwest.  

The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book demonstrates that in many respects children’s well-being in the United States is improving. The data also show that substantial work remains to be done to secure a bright future for all children and young adults. For the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center


Alicia VanOrman is a research associate at PRB.