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America's Children in 2001 - Not All the News Is Good

8/8/2001:   In July, the Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released the fifth in a series of annual reports. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2001 presents the most recent, most reliable official statistics compiled by 20 government offices. Available at http://www.childstats.gov, the report provides information on 24 key indicators of the state of the nation’s 70.4 million children younger than 18 (26% of the total population). The website also includes links to many other agencies and organizations concerned with the health, welfare, and education of children.

A new focus of this year’s report is advanced courses taken by high school students, as well as other statistics related to education, such as completion of high school and hours worked during the school year (60% of 16-year-old youth were employed at some point during the school year).

Many news releases about the report have emphasized its positive findings, such as higher household incomes and the all-time low teen birth rate (still 29 per 1,000).

CWLA notes that some of the "good news" in the report is not really so good for all children. For instance, the report notes:

  • Although child poverty dropped by 2% to its lowest level since 1979, 31% of children with a working parent are still living below the poverty line, and children are still more likely than adults to be poor.

  • The percentage of children covered by health insurance rose by 1%, but 10 million children still live without health insurance.

  • Injury–including homicide, suicide, and unintentional injuries–continues to account for over three out of four deaths among adolescents. Between 1980 and 1997, the number of young people taking their own lives increased 109%, particularly among children ages 10 to 14.

  • Binge drinking and use of illicit drugs have not decreased significantly. In 2000, among 12th graders, about 30% reported having at least five drinks in a single night during the past two weeks, and 25% reported drug use in the previous month.

As alarming as many of these statistics are, showing the need for greater concern with many aspects of the well-being of children, serious gaps remain in the data gathered. National indicators in several key dimensions of health, such as disability and mental health, are unavailable because of difficulties in definitions and measurement.

CWLA looks forward to having available increasingly accurate, comprehensive data on which to base its programs and advocacy aimed at increasing the well-being of every child. For more information about issues supported by CWLA, go to http://www.cwla.org. Click on the NDAS (National Data Analysis System) icon to get the latest state statistics. Another resource is the website of the CWLA National Resource Center for Information Technology in Child Welfare, http://www.nrcitcw.org, a service of the Children’s Bureau at the US Department of Health and Human Services.



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