Lack of Economic Progress & Opportunity Gap Holding Washington’s Kids Back
Elena Hernandez & Lori Pfingst - New data released today show that declining economic security and the opportunity gap for kids of color remain the most significant barriers to unleashing the full potential of Washington state’s children and economy.
The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a national snapshot of child well-being over the past 25 years, as well as more recent trends for the 50 states. Both nationally and in Washington state historically high poverty, unemployment, and housing costs, coupled with racial and ethnic disparities in child well-being are our biggest threats to progress. The data show:
- The total child poverty rate increased from 15 percent to 19 percent between 2005 and 2012. Poverty rates are as high as 35 percent among Black, Latino, and American Indian children, and the number of Asian and Pacific Islander children living in poverty has almost doubled.
- Nearly one-third (31 percent) of children have parents that lack secure employment. Among Black children the rate is even higher – four of every ten children (40 percent) live with parents that do not have regular, full-time employment.
- Four of every 10 children (39 percent) live in families with high housing costs. Latino children are most likely to be impacted, with nearly half (49 percent) living in households where 30 percent or more of household pretax income is spent on housing.
Education and health indicators are showing overall improvement, but disparities for kids of color remain. For example:
- The total share of students in Washington state not graduating on time decreased from 27 percent to 21 percent between 2005 and 2012. Latino students saw a decrease from 37 percent to 21 percent over the same time period, but the rates for most students of color have worsened. The largest increase was among American Indian students, whose rates increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 59 percent.
- Compared to 2005, a higher percent of students today are meeting fourth grade reading standards and eighth grade math standards on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. A higher percent of students from most major racial and ethnic backgrounds are meeting proficiency in reading and math today compared to 2005. (Note: Data not available for American Indian/Alaska Native on this indicator)
- The percent of uninsured children has declined to from 8 percent to 6 percent since 2008. Significantly more Black and Latino kids have gained coverage, while American Indian kids go uninsured at a rate three times higher than the state average (18 percent).
- The teen birth rate has declined dramatically, from 31 to 23 (per 1,000) between 2005 and 2012. The largest declines have occurred among teens of color.
The well-being of our children is the most significant predictor of our long-term economic and social future. The 2014 KIDS COUNT data suggest that, while overall gains in education and health are welcome news and show progress is possible, declining economic security and racial and ethnic disparities are holding our kids and economy back. A future where progress is made for some and not others is unacceptable.
Given the overwhelming evidence documenting the strong relationship between economic security and all other areas of well-being, progress in these areas can be accelerated if we meaningfully tackle systemic poverty and advance racial equity.