The Washington Post

The many stubborn kinds of inequality that children face growing up in the U.S.

In the 25 years since the Annie E. Casey Foundation began producing an annual databook on the status of American children, their well-being has improved in some significant ways: Teen pregnancies are much less common today than they were in 1990, and a larger share of children are now covered by health care thanks to the expansion of government programs. Over the same time, though, the number of children living in two-parent families has steadily declined, as the number living in high-poverty neighborhoods has grown.

And across this mixed record, one trend has remained largely consistent: "Perhaps the most striking finding," the databook reports this year, "is that despite tremendous gains during recent decades for children of all races and income levels, inequities among children remain deep and stubbornly persistent."

The databook tracks outcomes on numerous metrics: birthweights for babies, housing stability for their families, reading proficiency in the fourth grade, among many others. On nearly every one of these metrics, minority children lag behind their white counterparts, suggesting that inequalities in adult outcomes have origins very early in life.

In 2012, black children in the United States were twice as likely as the average child to live with only one parent. American Indian children were half as likely to be covered by health insurance. Hispanic children were six times as likely as white children to live with a household head who lacks a high school degree. Below, I've charted many of these trends using the databook's data (all data refer to children 18 and under, unless otherwise specified). These trends emphasize that as we improve the well-being of children, it's equally essential to narrow the differences between them:

Emily Badger is a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities.
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