Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Youth are healthier and completing high school on time despite facing future limited by economic inequality, unaffordable higher education

The teenagers of Generation Z – the rising cohort born after 1995 that follows the Millennials –broke records in education and health indicators despite growing up in the midst of the economic downturn, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation

Aided by federal, state and local policies and investments in prevention, a record number of teens have managed to avoid bad choices that could have derailed their future prospects. Comparing data between 2008 and 2014, teen birth rates fell 40 percent, the percentage of teens abusing drugs and alcohol dropped 38 percent, and the percent of teens not graduating on time decreased by 28 percent.

These improvements are remarkable given the economic challenges faced by far too many of their families. Despite rising employment numbers, 22 percent of children lived in poverty in 2014—the same rate as in 2013 and almost one in three children live in families where no member of the household has full-time, year-round employment. While navigating their own family challenges, an increasing number of our young people are also growing up in neighborhoods that lack the resources they need to thrive. Since 2006-2010, the number of children living in high poverty areas increased to 14 percent, up from 11 percent. 

Since 2008, the percentage of teen drug and alcohol abuse has declined by double digits in every state except Louisiana and the District of Columbia;; in 11 states it fell by 40 percent or
more. The teen birth rate fell by more than 20 percent since 2008 in all but one state, North Dakota, where it fell by 14 percent. Child and teen death rates fell in all states except two, Utah and West Virginia, with a 66 percent drop in the District of Columbia. Only three states did not see a positive change in the percent of high school kids not graduating on time, with Nebraska and D.C. seeing a more than 50 percent decrease. 
Yet despite their increasingly responsible choices, Generation Z teens growing up in low- to moderate-income households have fewer opportunities to move up the economic ladder compared to adults in the previous two generations. A college degree is now required to qualify for most middle income positions, but rising tuition costs and a shift in financial aid away from needs-based grants to loans has put a post-secondary education out of reach for most low- income students. Armed with only a high school degree, the future prospects for young adults are bleak. Among recent high school graduates, the unemployment rate was 28 percent for blacks, 17 percent for Latinos and 15 percent for whites. Those with jobs earned, on average, $10.66 an hour, which was less than wages in 2000 when adjusted for inflation.
Key trends include gains in health insurance but stagnating poverty and racial inequity 

The 2016 Data Book, which focuses on key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years, measures child well-being in four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. 

The rates of children without health insurance have improved by 40 percent since 2008, with some states recording decreases of more than 60 percent. State health insurance covered close to an additional 3 million children. 

Our country’s legacy of racial inequity means that children of color continue to face significant barriers to their success. African-American children were twice as likely as the average child to live in high-poverty neighborhoods and to live in single-parent families. American Indian children were twice as likely to lack health insurance coverage, and Latino children were the least likely to live with a household head who has at least a high school diploma. On a positive note, African-American children were more likely than the national average to have health insurance coverage, attend pre-school and Pre-K, and live in families where the household head had at least a high school diploma.

National and State Rankings for the 2016 Data Book 

For the second year in a row, a non-New England state ranks number one for overall child well- being. Minnesota holds the top spot, followed by Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire and Connecticut, a newcomer to the top five. Mississippi remains the lowest ranked, with New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and newcomer Alabama rounding out the bottom five. Other state highlights:
• The top five states in economic well-being are in the heartland and Plain States regions 
— Wyoming, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska.
  • The biggest improvements in overall rankings compared to last year’s Data Book are in Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.
  • The biggest drops in overall rankings are in Alaska, Maine, Maryland and Kansas.
  • Arkansas, Florida and Wyoming fell to the lowest five rankings in health, accompanying
    Mississippi and Louisiana.

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