By Martha Saenz
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for The Annie E. Casey Foundation, presented mixed findings from the 30th anniversary edition of the organization’s KIDS COUNT Data Book at NCSL’s Legislative Summit.
For three decades, the foundation has tracked child well-being in the United States and produced an annual report of its findings.
Boissiere highlighted general trends over the last 30 years, pointing out the positive developments and remaining challenges for many children in the country:
- With 11 of 16 measures of child well-being moving in the right direction, children in the United States have a better chance of thriving now than in 1990; however, racial and ethnic disparities are significant and persistent.
- Teen births have dropped 68% since 1990.
- The U.S. child population grew by more than 9 million, from 64.2 million in 1990 to 73.7 million in 2017. Half of this growth occurred in three states: Texas, Florida and California.
- The percentage of U.S. children who are Latino more than doubled from 12% to 26%, and Asian and Pacific Islander children also doubled from 3% to 6%. White children now account for 53% of the child population.
Turning to the 2020 census, Boissiere noted that 55 major federal programs, which allocate more than $880 billion each year, are based on census data. Joining Boissiere to discuss the census, NCSL’s Wendy Underhill highlighted census resources and state efforts to provide funding for outreach campaigns and create complete count committees or commissions.
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-S.C.) opened floor discussion by emphasizing the importance of addressing racial equity through public policy. Cobb-Hunter also highlighted South Carolina’s bipartisan efforts on the Earned Income Tax Credit .
Addressing racial and ethnic disparities and providing child tax credits are among the policy recommendations included in the KIDS COUNT Data Book for improving child measures.
Lou Hanemann, assistant executive director for external initiatives at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, described Tennessee Reconnect, an initiative to help adults return to higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace, and complete a degree or credential. Boissiere highlighted this program as one that can help working families build economic security and improve poverty measures for children.
To explore these and other issues related to child and family well-being, send a message to email@example.com.
Martha Saenz is a program manager in NCSL’s State-Tribal Institute.