Report: D.C. youth more likely to attend preschool, have health insurance

Children in the District are attending preschool at higher rates, performing better academically and are more likely to have health insurance, according to an annual report of child well-being indicators released this week.

But challenges remain steep for many children in the nation’s capital, where poverty rates are well above the national average.

Here are some of the findings from the 25th annual Kids Count data report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

— 27 percent of children came from families living below the federal poverty line in 2012, down three points from 2011 but eight points higher than in 1990.

— 31 percent of D.C. children live in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, where opportunities for success are harder to come by. This is a 2 percent increase from last year.

There were also some positive trends in the data:

— More than half — 55 percent — of D.C. children were from single-parent families in 2012, down from 65 percent in 2005

— The portion of D.C. children who lack health insurance dropped to 2 percent in 2012, down slightly from previous years.

— The portion of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool dropped by 10 points between 2007 and 2012, from 37 percent to 27 percent.

— The portion of fourth-graders scoring at or above proficient on a national reading test increased from 11 percent to 23 percent between 2005 and 2013.

Despite signs of progress, the report showed that there is still a lot of work to do, children’s advocates said.

“Too many of our children are growing up in conditions that do not support their success in school and in life,” said HyeSook Chung, executive director of DC Action for Children. “All of us need to work smarter to ensure all of our children, youth and their families have what they need to thrive, regardless of their ZIP code.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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