LOUISIANA (NNPA) — Black children are doing better than ever, but still have a long way to go before closing the racial-ethnic gap in quality of life, according to a report released last month, by the Foundation for Child Development.
According to the report, all children experienced overall improvements in quality of life between 1985 and 2004. However, because improvements were greater for Black and Hispanic children during this time span - particularly after 1993 - the gap is narrowing.
But even if trends continue at their current pace, it will take at least an entire generation to fully eliminate these gaps.
"Even if we manage to continue to make progress towards closing the racial-ethnic gaps in children's well-being at the same rate we have been, it would take another 18 years before Black children essentially caught up with White children," said Ruby Takanishi, president/CEO of the foundation, said. "As a leading world superpower, America can do and should do better than this."
The Child Well Being Index is an annual analysis of the quality of life for American children. It measures how well or poorly they are doing in seven areas: Health, Poverty, Education, Safety and Behavioral Concerns, Social Relationships, Community Connectedness and Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being, and then compares how well our children are doing today with how they have done in the past - to give an overall sense of whether their quality of life is improving over time. This report was the first to analyze and compare trends in the well-being of Black, White, and Hispanic children over a span of nearly two decades.
Entitled "Racial-Ethnic Inequality in Child Well-Being from 1985-2004: Gaps Narrowing but Persist," The report includes data from several years of the Foundation for Child Development's Child Well-Being Index - an annual analysis of the quality of life for all American children. It found that the gap in the overall quality of life separating Black children from White children narrowed by 26 percent — a change driven largely by promising improvements in safety, economic security and health for children of color.
A few other key findings of the report include:
• Education is stagnant: While Black children have made progress in many areas, substantial gaps in education between White and Black children have shown little improvement. The Black disadvantage in preschool enrollment has been eliminated, but the gaps in reading and math indicators have barely changed, and the same is true of the Black-White gap in completing a bachelor's degree.
• Black children have seen the biggest improvement in their likelihood to commit a violent crime. While all children were much less likely to commit a violent crime in 2004 than they were in 1985, the likelihood of Black children committing a violent crime has decreased so significantly that it is now nearly on par with Whites. Hispanic youths are less likely than Whites or Blacks to commit crimes or be victims.
• While the likelihood of all youth voting is up, Black youth are now more likely to vote than ever before, and the likelihood of Black youth voting is improving faster than it is for White children.
• The poverty gap between White children and Black children is closing. While rates of poverty are decreasing for all racial/ethnic groups, they are decreasing more rapidly for Black children than they are for White children.
• Black and Hispanic children also benefited from advances in the safety-behavioral domains including reduced cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol and use of illicit drugs.
• Gaps in family economic well-being narrowed for both Black and Hispanic children as parental employment and health insurance coverage increased.
• Obesity rates rose less for Black and Hispanic children, although they remain higher than for Whites.
• White children were disadvantaged compared to Black and Hispanic children in the emotional/spiritual measure, which looks at religious belief and affiliation at grade 12, and also at the child suicide rate.
• Even if Black and Hispanic children reached parity with the current level of well-being among White children, the overall well-being of all three groups would be substantially below the best that the U.S. has ever achieved on these measures, and levels of well-being currently experienced by international peers of the U.S.
"With the possibility of an economic recession, policies should aim to protect the economic security of American families, as well as key programs in health and education that support the largest number of children, especially those whose families earn below the median family income," said Don Hernandez, researcher and author of the report. "A number of the positive changes outlined in this report can be attributed to smart policies and an active community. If we want to continue to improve our children's lives, we must continue to push for this kind of smart policy."
"There's a long way to go, but this is an enormous closing of the gap," co-author Donald Hernandez, a sociology professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York, told USA Today. He said the overall gap between Black and White children closed by one-fourth, and between Hispanics and Whites by one-third. "That's stunning," he added. "I was frankly surprised by the extent of it."
Margaret Simms, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, which studies social policy, said that regardless of the progress made, "we shouldn't become complacent."
The Foundation for Child Development is a national, private philanthropic organization dedicated to the principle that all families should have the social and material resources to raise their children to be healthy, educated and productive members of their communities. The Foundation seeks to understand children, particularly the disadvantaged, and to promote their well-being. They believe that families, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses and government at all levels share complementary responsibilities in the critical task of raising new generations.
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