American children saw some positive gains in their health and education despite an economic crisis that's just now showing signs of recovery.
Though there were some gains, a new study on the well-being of the nation's children showed that the there is plenty of room for improvement: the number of youngsters living in poverty between 2000 and 2010 was equivalent to the population of Los Angeles.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book report this week, revealing that the parents of more children are having a hard time finding steady employment.
As of June, the nation's stubborn unemployment rate was at 8.2 percent.
In all of that, there has been a downward trend in the number of children without health insurance, and a similar movement in the child and teen death rate. Similarly, the number of high school students who aren't graduating in four years has also decreased. The same goes for the number of eighth-graders scoring less than proficiency in math.
Declines were also seen in the percent of children living with parents without a high school diploma, and in the teen birth rate. But while those are good positives, the percent of children living in single-parent families has increased and more children are living in high-poverty areas, the report showed.
This year's findings reveal signs of hope in the midst of tough economic times for millions of families across the country, said Patrick McCarthy, the foundation's president and CEO. While we've made progress in some important areas, we must work together to make sure every child, not just a select few, has the opportunity to succeed.
We can help children reach their full potential by ensuring they stay on track in school and grow up healthy in strong financially stable families surrounded by supportive communities, McCarthy added.
The Kids Count Data Book keeps track of the nation's children's well-being and provides a state-by-state look at the obstacles America's families are faced with and the progress made. The foundation uses federal government data to make its analysis under four categories: Economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Among the other findings were:
- From 2000 to 2010, the number of children living in poverty went up nearly 30 percent from 12.2 million to 15.7 million. By comparison, the city of Los Angeles has approximately 3.8 million people in it.
- In 36 states and the District of Columbia, at least one in three children lived in households that pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
- The number of fourth graders scoring less than proficiency in reading dropped in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Alabama saw the greatest improvement.
- Child poverty rates went up in 43 states. New Hampshire saw a 10 percent jump while Mississippi was hit with a 33 percent increase.
- Vermont and Virginia stood out among 47 states that saw a decline in their child and teen death rates. They had a decrease of 46 and 30 percent, respectively.
- New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont ranked highest in overall child well-being, while Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi got the lowest rankings.
- The three most populous states ended up ranking in the bottom half when it comes to overall child well-being: California, the most populous state, ranked No. 41, Texas No. 44, and New York No. 29.
- Eight of the 10 most populous states are in the bottom half of the overall rankings. (Read the full report and learn how your state is doing here.)
Mark Edwards, executive director of Opportunity Nation, a children's well-being non-profit in Washington, D.C., told USA Today that while he likes the improvements in education and other areas, the declines in economic well-being are unacceptable.
Edwards said that unless children are brought up in nurturing households and communities, then people won't be successful in America.
I think people understand education is a piece of the puzzle, and I think there's increasing awareness we have to do more than just focus on schools, Edwards said.