Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Kids Count Data Book Released

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book - an annual report tracking the well-being of American children, state by state. Each year the Data Book looks at a wide range of indicators of child well-being and documents trends, improvements and setbacks. This year’s report focused on economic well-being of children and families, as well as education, health and family and community indicators.

This year’s report shows that, while many aspects of child well-being have improved over time, others have remained stagnant or declined. Inequities in education, for instance, continue to hamper progress for all children.  While there were small increases in reading and math proficiency, as well as high school graduation rates, gaps in standardized testing scores have increased by 40% between affluent and low-income students and doubled between African American and non-Hispanic white students. Similar to the data reported in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the economic recession continues to hinder the economic well-being of families and children. The number of children in poverty increased between 2000 and 2010 from 12.2 million to 15.7 million, an increase of nearly 30 percent. Though communities nationwide continue to struggle with the economic impact of the recession, recent lower unemployment rates and increasing state revenues suggest the economic climate is on track to improve and create the environment needed to help low-income children and families.

From the 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Given that poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn, as well as contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems and poor health, the 2012 Data Book points out that the number of children in poverty continues to increase. Research has shown that children who are nurtured and well cared for, particularly during their early years, have better social-emotional, language and learning outcomes, which in turn often lead to more positive behavior and academic achievement in later years. As highlighted in the report, single parents, especially those struggling with financial hardship and may live in distressed neighborhoods, are more prone to stress, anxiety and depression, which can interfere with effective parenting.

The Data Book findings underscore the importance of two-generation strategies that strengthen families by mitigating a family’s underlying economic distress and addressing the well-being of both parents and children. Two-generation approaches focus on creating opportunities for and addressing needs of both parents and children together, rather than many programs that focus on one or the other. Additionally, families exist in and are affected by neighborhoods and communities. Neighborhood capacity building work remains an important tool in combating some of these negative effects and enhancing the positive effects of a community. Current efforts, such as the Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program, strive to create neighborhoods where children, families and residents have access to the opportunities and resources needed to improve outcomes.

The Data Book results are consistent with the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics’ recent annual report on national indicators of the well-being of children and families.

To learn more about the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s work with neighborhoods, please click here.

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