• September 2018
  • Vol. 19, No. 7

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2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book

2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, measures child well-being in the United States in four areas: economic security, education, health, and family/community. In addition, the report raises concerns over a potential undercount of America's children in the upcoming 2020 census and its impact on children and families.

The 2018 Data Book provides current data and, when possible, multiyear trends (from data obtained between 2010 and 2016). The following are data highlights about child and family well-being in the four domains:

  • Overall, between 2010 and 2016, economic security improved for most children, as fewer children were living in poverty, more parents were employed, and less income was being spent on housing.
  • Around 84 percent of high school students graduated on time in the 2015–2016 school year, which was an all-time high.
  • Far fewer children lacked access to health insurance than in previous years.
  • Thirteen percent of U.S. children continued to live in communities where poverty rates were at or above 30 percent between 2012 and 2016.

The report also points out that many children are never counted in the census because they are in families that move frequently, are homeless, or speak another language other than English. The authors note that the households most likely to be missed often have a disproportionate number of young children and tend to be immigrant families or those of color. According to the report, almost a quarter of all children under age 5 live in neighborhoods that are considered difficult to count—those where poverty is high and where multiunit apartment buildings and rental housing are the norm. Some households may also fail to count all members on the survey, particularly the youngest children who are not yet school age.

The report expresses concern that the most underrepresented children would likely be those most in need of the type of services that would be jeopardized by an undercount. "If we don't count the kids facing the greatest obstacles, we essentially make them and their needs invisible—and their future uncertain," the report warns. The report outlines the following ways an undercount might affect communities:

  • Reduce federal funding allocations for programs providing critical assistance to low-income families
  • Misrepresent the appropriate political representation—based on population—which in turn affects voting district boundaries
  • Underestimate state and local needs for infrastructure, services, and investment
  • Provide inaccurate data for research and advocacy organizations

In order to ensure a more accurate representation of America's children, the report recommends the following actions:

  • Maximize the U.S. Census Bureau's capacity to do a thorough and accurate count
  • Fund state and local census outreach and awareness campaigns
  • Expand the number of "trusted messengers" (e.g., service providers, Early Head Start and Head Start programs, public program offices) to reach households that are hard to count
  • Make internet access widely available to households least likely to have it
  • Address concerns surrounding privacy and confidentiality

2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being is available at http://www.aecf.org/resources/2018-kids-count-data-book/.

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