America’s Children

I have written before about the economic and social imperative of expanding access to education and improving the quality of health care while slowing cost growth.  Today, a new report, "America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009" was issued by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Unfortunately, this report makes clear that more work remains to be done when it comes to children’s well-being in the areas of health care, economic circumstances, and family and social environment.
"America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009" specifically tracks 40 key indicators measuring children’s economic circumstances, health, physical environment and safety, family and social environment, behavior, and education.  The data in the report are from 2007, the most recent available, and this is the 11th such report since OMB joined with six other federal agencies to create the Forum in 1994. I should also note that the report’s Foreword was written by our own Katherine Wallman, OMB’s Chief Statistician.
While the report highlights some positive developments (such as the increase in the proportion of high school graduates who took advanced placement course work in math and foreign languages and a decrease in 10th graders’ reports of regular smoking), there are some deeply troubling statistics as well: 
  • In 2007, the poverty rate for children rose from 17 percent to 18 percent from the previous year.
  • 12.4 million children in America – or 17 percent of all kids – live in households that are food-insecure.
  • For the second consecutive year, teen birth rates increased, following a long-term decline beginning in 1991.
  • The percentage of children ages 3-5 who were read to every day in the last week by a family member declined from 60 percent in 2005 to 55 percent in 2007.
Perhaps most troubling are the large racial and ethnic disparities in the data. For instance, the poverty rate for Black children was 35 percent and for Hispanic children, 29 percent.  Black and Hispanic children were more likely to not have health insurance, not attend college, and to live with a single parent.
The data in this report are rich, and taken together, make clear that the status quo is unsustainable.  The President’s agenda is therefore focused on giving more children access to a world-class education and closing achievement gaps, reforming health care so that it delivers quality care to more Americans while reducing costs for us all, and building a vibrant, broad-based economy that can give families the stability of a good job and steady income.

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