Diverse students standing together in a row

2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book: Trends in Child Well-Being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book on June 27, 2018. The KIDS COUNT Data Book 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 2018 Data Book focuses on key trends in child well-being during the economic recovery following the Great Recession. Over the last six years, children experienced gains in economic well-being, but results were mixed for the Health, Education, and Family and Community domains.

This year, the Data Book also highlights the growing undercount of young children in each decennial census since 1980, and discusses the risks and implications of another undercount in 2020. Given the importance of the decennial census in determining federal funding for states and localities for the next decade, the Data Book outlines strategies that could help improve the count of young children in the 2020 Census.

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.

Children’s Well-Being Is Improving in the Post-Recession Years

  • All four economic well-being indicators improved since 2010. In 2016, fewer children were living in poverty, fewer children had parents who lacked secure employment, and fewer families were spending a disproportionate share of their income on housing costs. Despite these improvements, one in five children still lived in poverty.
  • High school graduation rates reached an all-time high in 2015/2016 with 84 percent of high school students graduating on time. In 2010/2011, only 79 percent of high school students graduated on time.
  • More children have health insurance coverage. In 2016, only 4 percent of children did not have health insurance coverage compared with 8 percent in 2010. Children’s insurance coverage has improved in 45 states since 2010, primarily due to expanded access to health insurance.
  • The teen birth rate continued its dramatic decline, reaching its lowest level ever. The rate of teenage childbearing declined by 41 percent, dropping from 34 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2010 to 20 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2016.

States in the Northeast tend to have the highest levels of overall child well-being. This year, New Hampshire ranked first and Massachusetts second. States in the South and Southwest tend to have lower levels of overall child well-being; Mississippi (48), Louisiana (49), and New Mexico (50) had the lowest overall child well-being rankings this year. State-level gaps in child well-being reflect variation in the resources available to children and in state- and local-level policy. Such state-level variation shows bright spots for child well-being and areas for continued improvement.

  • More than four in ten children in California lived in households that spend a disproportionate amount of income on housing compared with slightly less than two in ten children in North Dakota.
  • Nationally, one-third of eighth graders in public schools were proficient in mathematics. Massachusetts was the only state with at least half of eighth graders proficient in math. At 19 percent, Louisiana had the lowest share of eighth grade students proficient in mathematics.
  • In 2016, the child and teen mortality rate was 26 deaths per 100,000 children and youth ages 1 to 19. South Dakota had the highest child and teen death rate at 47 deaths per 100,000 children, and Rhode Island had the lowest rate at 15 child and teen deaths per 100,000 children.
  • The teen birth rate declined in all states, yet wide gaps remain. In 2016, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire had the lowest rates of teenage childbearing with 9 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, compared with the highest rate in Arkansas with 35 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Child Well-Being Persist

Since 2010, African American, American Indian, and Latino children experienced improvements across the 16 indicators of children’s well-being, yet deep inequities continue to persist. Children of color had lower levels of well-being than non-Hispanic white children on nearly all indicators that were tracked in the Data Book. These large racial and ethnic gaps in child well-being indicate that children of color continue to face steep barriers to success.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book demonstrates that many factors that lead to children’s healthy development have improved since 2010. 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.