In this report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of kids, race and opportunity. The report features the new Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level. The index is based on 12 indicators that measure a child’s success in each stage of life, from birth to adulthood, in the areas of early childhood; education and early work; family supports; and neighborhood context.
By nearly every measure the Race for Results Index, African- American, Latino, American Indian and subgroups of Asian and Pacific Islander kids face some of the biggest obstacles on the pathway to opportunity. Differences in opportunity are evident from the earliest years of a child’s life. Too often, children of color grow up in environments where they experience high levels of poverty and violence. Such circumstances derail healthy development and lead to significant psychological and physiological trauma. Research has shown that growing up in chronic poverty contributes directly to stress at a level that can affect children’s health, brain development and social and emotional well-being — a response known as “toxic stress.”
At least one out of every three African-American, Latino and American Indian children in America lives in a household with an income below the poverty line. As these children attempt to climb the ladder of opportunity, many will fall through broken rungs.
Housing, transportation and development policies also separated people of color from higher-paying jobs. Businesses were increasingly migrating from cities where most people of color lived to suburban areas that were hard to reach because of a lack of public transportation. More recently, many researchers and advocates have highlighted the lack of adequate funding for schools with large populations of children of color and the disproportionate placement of teachers with inadequate training and experience in their classrooms. Many young people of color, with aspirations to become the first in their families to complete college, are forced to rely on the under-resourced community college system or take on tremendous debt to achieve this important milestone.
Despite efforts to eradicate the most overt forms of racism in this country, a web of stubborn obstacles remains, undermining the chances for children of color and their families to succeed. Even families of color in the middle class have a very tenuous hold on their economic status. Children of color are more likely to fall out of the middle class and are more likely to stay in the lower class as adults.17 In sum, there are steep barriers to opportunity in American society for people of color as a group. This surely does not bode well for their children or for our nation. The majority of the 18 million children in immigrant families in the United States are children of color. These children face obstacles to opportunity that include poverty, lack of health insurance, parents with lower levels of educational attainment, substandard housing and language barriers.
Most vulnerable are the 5.5 million children who reside with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent. Children in these families have less access to public programs that benefit children’s development because of their parents’ legal status or English language ability. They must often overcome school interruption and economic hardship if parental income is lost because of immigration enforcement and deportation.
Last year, for the first time, more children of color were born in the United States than white children. According to Census Bureau projections, by 2018, children of color will represent a majority of children. By 2030, the majority of the U.S. labor force will be people of color. By mid-century, no single racial group will comprise a majority of the population.
McKinsey & Company researchers found that if the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and African-American and Latino student performance had caught up with white students by 1998, the gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher.