All Kentucky kids deserve a path to a successful and productive adulthood. The reality is, however, that the zip code in which children live, the amount of money their family earns, and the color of their skin are pervasive and powerful influences on the childhood they will have and the future they can embrace.
Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2017 Race for Results report, which features index scores calculated from 12 key indicators that serve as steppingstones to success. The Race for Results index measures how children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds are faring on the path to success nationally and in each state.
The report shows that no group has all children meeting all milestones, though African-American, American Indian, and Latino children face some of the biggest obstacles on the pathway to success. While the index scores show significant disparities in overall child well-being, a look at the 12 key indicators portray a more nuanced picture.
There is good news for Kentucky
Across the commonwealth, more than 9 out of 10 female teens in each racial/ethnic group are delaying childbearing until adulthood. For another two indicators, the Black/White racial gap has disappeared: both racial groups have 89 percent of children living with a householder who has at least a high school degree, and rates are virtually the same for Black (80 percent) and White (81 percent) young adults who are in school or working. Moreover, though African-American children are more likely to live in poverty, early childhood programs like Head Start ensure kids have a strong start in school and help mitigate the impact of poverty. These public programs could explain African-American children being slightly more likely than their White counterparts to be enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten.
Inequities still persist
Of course, the Race for Results index scores differ as much as they do because there are still plenty of instances where significant disparities persist across groups. For instance, it shows that some groups of children face greater barriers to reading proficiency. In Kentucky, only Asian/Pacific Islander children have rates above 50 percent for fourth grade reading proficiency using national standards, compared to 44 percent of White children, and 23 percent of African American and Hispanic or Latino children. All children need financial stability, yet Black communities have faced historical and ongoing discrimination in housing, employment, and financial services. This discrimination has compounded across generations and resulted in many families having less wealth and assets and being more racially and economically segregated. At 28 percent, African-American children are half as likely as White children to escape low-income status by living above 200 percent of the federal poverty line. African-American children are also least likely to live in low-poverty areas.
The future of Kentucky depends on prosperous communities where kids and their families can thrive. The Race for Results report shows us that though we have made significant progress in opening the path to success for more Kentucky children, including kids of color, our work is far from over if we are going to make Kentucky the best place to be young.