According to data released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, overall improvements in child well-being that began in the late 1990s stalled in the years just before the current economic downturn.

 

    • Five areas have improved: the infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, and teen birth rate; and the percent of teens not in school and not high school graduates.

 

    • Three areas have worsened: the percent of babies born low birth weight, the child poverty rate, and the percent of children living in single-parent families.

 

    • Two areas are not comparable: changes made to the American Community Survey’s (ACS) 2008 questionnaire regarding employment affected the ability to track trends for the percent of teens not in school and not working, and the percent of children in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment.

 

“We won’t be able to assess the full impact of the economic downturn on children and families for a number of years,” said Laura Beavers, national KIDS COUNT coordinator at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The economic data that the Census Bureau will release later this year will give a better picture of family economic well-being in the recession. However, even data from 2008 that was collected before the recession took hold shows economic conditions were worsening for kids.”

 

Based on trend data released by the Casey Foundation, the rate of children living in poverty in 2008 was 18 percent, indicating that 1 million more children were living in poverty in that year than in 2000. Experts project that more up-to-date Census data will show the child poverty climbing to above 20 percent. This year’s Data Book offers good news as well. More teens in 2008 across all five of the largest racial and ethnic groups were either in school or had obtained a high school diploma or General Education Diploma compared with teens in 2000.

 

According to the report, the teen birth rate fell from 48 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 in 2000 to 43 births per 1,000 females in this age range in 2007. However, there is bad news related to teen births. Although still below the rate of 2000, the teen birth rate did increase from 40 to 43 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 between 2005 and 2007.

 

Looking across all child well-being indicators, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Vermont rank highest, and Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi rank the lowest. Six states with the biggest improvements in their rankings between 2000-2007 (health data) and 2000-2008 (economic data) are New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, Oregon, and Wyoming. The five states with the biggest drops in their rankings between 2000-2007 and 2000-2008 are Montana, South Dakota, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii.

 

In addition to the 10 key measures tracked in the Data Book, the KIDS COUNT Data Center (http://datacenter.kidscount.org) provides easy, online access to the latest child well-being data on hundreds of indicators by state, county, city, and school district. It serves as a comprehensive source of information for policymakers, advocates, members of the media, and others concerned with addressing the needs of children, families, and communities.