Kids well-being report: improved health, but many live in poverty

National indicators for American children's well-being were released in a new report by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Progress was made in health areas, but children living in poverty is at its highest since 1994.

Devon Ravine/AP
Caleb Nesmith cools off in a waterpark fountain Sunday afternoon at Navarre Park in Navarre, Fla. According to recent national indicators for child well-being, there have been many improvements in health areas, but children living in poverty is at its highest level since 1994.

Here’s a new snapshot of the state of child well-being in the United States, brought to you by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics:

Infant mortality rates are down. So are premature births and teen births. Fewer young children than in the past live in a household where someone smokes regularly, and fewer adolescents were the victims of serious violent crime. And math scores even increased for fourth and eighth graders.

Looks pretty good, right? 

But here’s the bad news: More children are living in poverty. In 2010, according to “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012,” 22 percent of children ages 0-17, or 16.4 million kids, live in poverty. For kids living in female-headed households, the number shoots up to 47 percent. And looking at different ethnic groups, the numbers get even more grim: In 2010, about one in five black, non-Hispanic children lived in families with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty threshold, a value of $11,057 for a family of four.  The report says that this estimate is the highest since 1994.

And there is not only economic trouble.  According to the report, more children (67 percent in 2010 versus 59 percent in 2009) live in counties where the levels of one or more air pollutants are above allowable levels.

These numbers are not new.  The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics coordinates with 22 different federal agencies to combine and integrate existing data to provide an easy look at a number of child well-being indicators, such as economic circumstances, behavior, and physical environment and safety.

But by bringing the various statistics together, they present a unique, yearly, snapshot of the 73.9 million children in the US. (That number is from 2011.)

There’s a lot to celebrate in the report. But it’s also clear the country’s economic woes are hurting kids. Badly. And that should be a concern to all of us.

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