Senior Research Associate
The KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual assessment of how children are faring in the United States and in each state, 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.
PRB’s U.S. Programs staff have played an essential role in the production of the Data Book since its inception, providing feedback on the design and measurement of the KIDS COUNT index and compiling the data presented in the Data Book.
In celebration of the 30th edition, the 2019 Data Book includes analysis of changes in the size and composition of the child population since 1990, highlighting the implications for child well-being. Since 1990, the child population has become more racially and ethnically diverse and the share of children with at least one immigrant parent has more than doubled. Growth in the child population has varied across states, with the fastest growth in the South and West. Texas alone has nearly 2.5 million more children in 2017 than in 1990, accounting for more than a quarter of the national increase across this period. Although child well-being has improved in many ways since 1990, the fastest-growing and largest states also tend to be those with lower rankings on overall child well-being.
National Trends in Child Well-Being Continue to Improve
The 2019 Data Book highlights key trends in child well-being since 2010. Based on the most recent data available, 11 out of the 16 key indicators improved since 2010 and only one indicator—the percent of babies born with low birth weight—worsened.
- Children experienced broad gains in economic well-being, with all four indicators improving. Despite these gains, nearly one in five children still lived in poverty.
- High school graduation rates continued to increase, with 85 percent of students graduating on time in 2016/2017. However, the share of public-school eighth graders who are proficient in math remains unchanged, with just one-third scoring as proficient.
- Children’s health insurance coverage improved—5 percent of children lacked health insurance coverage in 2017 compared with 8 percent in 2010. Yet, the child and teen death rate has remained unchanged since 2010, and the percent of low-birthweight babies increased for the third consecutive year.
- The teen birth rate continues to fall, dropping to a new low of 19 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2017. This rate shows significant improvement from 34 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 2010 and 60 births per 1,000 teenage girls in 1990.
Wide Differences Remain in Child Well-Being Across States
National-level data can mask state and regional variations in child well-being. 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 rank lowest in overall child well-being, with Mississippi (48), Louisiana (49), and New Mexico (50) having the lowest rankings this year.
- In 2017, 43 percent of children in California lived in households that spent a disproportionate amount of income on housing compared to 18 percent of children in North Dakota and South Dakota.
- Massachusetts was the only state in which half of the students in public school were considered proficient in reading or math—more than half of fourth graders were proficient in reading (51 percent) and at least half of eight graders were proficient in math (50 percent).
- Since 2010, children’s health insurance coverage rates have improved in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Only 1 percent of children in Massachusetts lacked health insurance coverage compared with 11 percent in Texas.
- Less than 1 percent of children in Wyoming lived in high-poverty areas compared with 24 percent of children in Mississippi and New Mexico.
- The teen birth rate declined in all states, yet wide gaps remain. In 2017, Massachusetts and New Hampshire had the lowest rate of teenage childbearing with 8 births per 1,000 teenage girls, compared with the highest rate in Arkansas at 33 births per 1,000 teenage girls.
Racial and Ethnic Gaps in Child Well-Being Persist
Since 2010, children of all races experienced improvements across many of the 16 indicators of children’s well-being, yet deep inequities continue to persist. African American, American Indian, and Latino children are more likely than the average child to be poor, have parents who lack secure employment, and live in high-poverty neighborhoods. African American children have the highest rates of living in single-parent families, and American Indian children are the most likely to lack health insurance. Latino children are most likely to live with a household head who lacks a high school diploma and to not be in school when they are young. African American teenage girls and Latina teenagers have the highest rates of teenage childbearing. These large racial and ethnic gaps in child well-being indicate that children of color continue to face steep barriers to success.
The 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that while substantial work remains to be done to secure a bright future for all children and young adults, many factors leading to children’s healthy development have improved since the release of the first Data Book in 1990 and since 2010. These results provide encouragement that the nation and states can advance the work needed to improve the prospects for all children. For the most recent national, state, and local data on hundreds of measures of child well-being, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.