Things are looking up for Cascadia’s kids. Well some things. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book, released yesterday, teen birth rates in the Northwest states have steadily declined since 2000, and regional rates of infant mortality, and child and teen deaths are all down from 1990. But child poverty is up.
In the report’s 10 measures of child well-being, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington fared better than average for the country overall, ranking 18th, 16th, and 14th, respectively. Montana slipped to number 34 this year.
But for Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, the number of children living in poverty is up from 2000-2003 and is above the national average, perhaps reflecting some of the economic woes the Northwest has seen in recent years. In Oregon, 41 percent of all kids in the state live in low-income families. Oregon and Washington tied at 36th nationally in the percentage of children who live in families in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment.
Childhood poverty and parental unemployment can be factors in a host of other problems from lower school performance to higher crime rates and teenage pregnancy. Tracking trends such as child poverty and the teen birthrate–in projects like Kids Count and Sightline’s Cascadia Scorecard–helps raise awareness of the issues, the first step to creating change.
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As a next step, the Northwest could make reducing child poverty a major goal for the decade ahead by implementing policies that emphasize personal responsibility while giving working families a way to develop assets that appreciate, not just income (see p. 12 in NEw’s report, Population Reprieve). For example, government matching funds for low-income families who save for college or put money away for a down payment on a home.
P.S. The incredibly useful Kids Count website lets you compare trends regionally and by year, create charts, and download the raw data. Check it out.