Aug. 13, 2015 2:11 pm

Kids count: Report shows PA’s progress in helping children

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report recounts 16 key indicators.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which focuses its grantmaking on helping children, has released its annual report looking at the state of child welfare in the United States. The 2015 Kids Count Data Book measures 16 indicators, four each in the domains of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community.

With a few exceptions, Pennsylvania hews close to national averages, ranking 17th in the country overall.

The country as a whole saw both negative and positive trends: health and education indicators showed progress, while economic well-being and family and community indicators saw setbacks.

The report attributes the negative economic numbers, in part, to the lingering effect of the recession. It’s worth noting, however, that in 2013, the last year for which data is available, the unemployment rate was 7.4 percent. It is currently 5.4 percent, suggesting that more recent data could give more up-to-date insights.

The national percentage of children living in “concentrated poverty,” in which the poverty rate of the total population is 30 percent or more, increased from 9 percent in 2000 to 14 percent between 2009 and 2013. Pennsylvania’s rate stood at 11 percent from 2006-2013, up from 8 percent in 2000.

These numbers are based on the federal poverty rate of $24,250 for a family of four, which as the report points out is “widely acknowledged to be an inadequate measure of even a minimally decent standard of living.” In fact, double that amount is necessary to meet basic food, housing, transportation and health and child care costs, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s family budget calculator.

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As for education, pre-K attendance is up and high school graduation rates are at all-time high nationally. Pennsylvania saw the percentage of students who don’t graduate from high school on time drop from 17 to 12 percent between 2008 and 2012. While during the same period, pre-K attendance and attendance by students age 14 to 17  in the state stayed roughly the same.  

In Pennsylvania, as in many states, the data shows no clear upward or downward trend.

There is wide variation between states and across indicators, according to the report, and there are both “bright spots and room for improvement.”

Image via the US Department of Agriculture on Flickr


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