Improving Children's Well-Being Must Include Policy Focus on Racial, Ethnic Backgrounds

Jul 25, 2012

By Hannah Matthews and Stephanie Schmit

The young child population is rapidly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. In 2011, for the first time ever, the number of minority children under age 1 outweighed the number of white children under age 1, according to Census estimates -- ushering in a new "minority-majority" population. Yet, when considering child well-being, minority children fare far worse than their white counterparts. With the young child population is changing quickly, we need to take a close look at how policies affect children differently.  First, though, some recent data:

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics' annual report America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being looks at child well-being across seven domains including family and social environment; economic circumstances; health care; physical environment and safety; behavior; education; and health. The report also includes demographic information. This year's findings should be no surprise: overall, many of the country's children continue to fare poorly as a result of the difficult economic climate.

The number of children living in poverty has increased and the percentage of children with at least one parent employed full time, year round has decreased. Racial and ethnic minority children have fared particularly poorly. In 2010, 39 percent of black, non-Hispanic children and 35 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white, non-Hispanic children.

Today's release of the 2012 KIDSCOUNT data book shows similarly disheartening setbacks for children's economic well-being. Nationally, one out of three children had parents who lacked secure employment in 2010, a key indicator of poverty and well-being. Children from racial and ethnic minority families faced even higher rates of parents lacking full-time, year round employment. Forty percent of Hispanic children and 49 percent of African American and Native American children had parents who were not securely employed.

It's clear from years of research, though, that addressing growing poverty and disparities in health and educational outcomes for young children requires policy solutions that include a focus on racial and ethnic minority groups. Federal and state policies can have disproportionate impacts on poor and minority communities. In early childhood, this means implementing policies that promote culturally responsive practices, appropriate teaching, assessment strategies for children whose home language is not English, and ensuring that all early care and education providers are prepared to meet the needs of all children. Racial and ethnic disparities will not be eliminated without recognition of the differences that exist and targeted responses to improve the quality of early childhood policies and practices for diverse communities.

site by Trilogy Interactive