It's hard to think about the constrained circumstances of young kids living in poverty. But research has shown its tremendous impact on their well-being throughout their lives.
The recently released 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book, published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a stark, clear-eyed look at how well we're treating children in America.
"On almost every measure, children who experience chronic or deep poverty, especially when they are young, face tougher developmental and social barriers to success. Even brief experiences of poverty in early childhood can have lasting effects on health, education, employment and earning power," the report notes.
The databook, now in its 23rd year, does show some improvements. Test scores in schools are on the rise, and child health, safety and mortality rates have improved. Yet there are some grim statistics as well. For example, the book notes that:
- From 2000 to 2010, the number of children living in poverty jumped from 12.2 million to 15.7 million, an increase of nearly 30 percent.
- A recent Stanford study found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students has grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s...
- The prevalence of childhood obesity has tripled during the past 30 years.
For community developers looking to have a positive impact on statistics such as these, the databook is a treasure trove of information about the state of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community for children. Each of the four categories includes state rankings, key data points, and accessible charts and graphs.
In the introduction to the book, Patrick T. McCarthy, the president and CEO of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, points out that high concentrations of poverty have an especially pernicious effect on childhood development.
"Community investments that focus on the social and economic well-being of neighborhoods can provide a foundation for children’s futures."
The work of comprehensive community development, seen in this light, has a profound effect on the development of the children in our neighborhoods.
"A low-income child living in a flourishing community—with good schools, safe streets, strong civic institutions, positive role models and connections to opportunities—is more likely to thrive and succeed," McCarthy writes.
"That same child living in a community of concentrated poverty—with high crime, poor schools and environmental hazards—is far more likely to get off track in school, become involved with gangs or other negative peer influences and fail to transition to successful employment. Community investments that focus on the social and economic well-being of neighborhoods can provide a foundation for children’s futures."
h/t Center for the Study of Social Policy
Posted in Planning, Thinking Out Loud