Report Roundup for November 2003

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The Growing Number of Kids in Severely Distressed Neighborhoods: Evidence from the 2000 Census
Annie E. Casey Foundation

Although there was a significant decrease in the number of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods between 1990 and 2000, the number of children living in “severely distressed neighborhoods” increased from 3.4 million to 4.4 million in the same period, according to this Kids Count study.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the study classifies neighborhoods as severely distressed if they meet three of four criteria: a poverty rate higher than 27 percent; more than 37 percent of households headed by females; a dropout rate higher than 23 percent; and an unemployment rate of more than 34 percent among working-age males.

The number of children in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 30 percent to 40 percent declined. But economic improvement was tempered by negative social factors: While dropout and poverty rate indicators improved slightly, the percentage of children living in neighborhoods with high unemployment among males increased by 37 percent. 22 pages. Free online. Annie E. Casey Foundation, 701 St. Paul St., Baltimore, MD 21202. (410) 547-6600,

State Management and Allocation of Tobacco Settlement Revenues
National Conference of State Legislatures

Because of the economic downturn that beset most states in 2001, many states that had developed formulas for how to spend their share of the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies rescinded those plans to avoid tax increases. Instead of targeted, tobacco-related health and prevention projects, says the report, states “were faced with the dilemma of continuing these special programs at the expense of the basic health and education needs of all state citizens.”

The report says spending on tobacco-use prevention, mostly aimed at youth, has decreased nearly 20 percent since 2001, when more than $548 million was allocated for that purpose. Spending is slated to drop to $266 million in 2004, a 40 percent decline from 2003. The report provides data on each state’s use of MSA funds, categorized by spending priorities, such as health services, prevention and research. 70 pages. Free online. National Conference of State Legislatures, 7700 E. First Place, Denver, CO 80230. (303) 364-7700,

Physical (In)Activity Among Low-Income Children and Youth

After School Project

Although report author Robert Halpern doesn’t introduce any new evidence, his assessment of physical inactivity in low-income areas is on target and grim. With data pieced together from studies, research and news clippings, Halpern stresses the dearth of organized sports, inadequate amounts of play space and parental acquiescence to television as the pillars of an increasingly unhealthy urban youth population. 25 pages. Free. The After School Project, 180 W. 80th St., Second Floor, New York, NY 10024. (646) 277-2408,

Nearly 66,000 Youth Live in U.S. Mental Health Programs
Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research

The 66,000 youth living in residential care programs (RCPs) represent only 5 percent of the children who received mental health services in 1997, but indicators show that they are among the most troubled and unprepared youth in the system, according to this report.

Two-thirds of youth in RCPs were referred from social service or juvenile justice systems, which the report says “typically do not provide mental health services.” More than 70 percent of RCP children experience family problems, 34 percent are involved in delinquent behavior and 22 percent have skill deficits. The average Global Assessment of Functioning (a measurement of the severity of emotional disturbances) for RCP youth is only 1 percent lower than that of youth placed in 24-hour psychiatric facilities.

The report is part of a series entitled “Latest Findings in Children’s Mental Health,” which presents information drawn from the 1997 Client/Patient Sample Survey conducted by the U.S. Center for Mental Health Services. 2 pages. Free online. Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, 30 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08901. (732) 932-8413,

Getting Ready to Pay for College: What Students and Their Parents Know About the Cost of College Tuition and What They Are Doing to Find Out

National Center for Education Statistics

Don’t give up hope on sending your kid to college, says this study by the National Center for Education Statistics. It says high school students and their parents substantially overestimate the cost of a college education.

The average in-state tuition at a public four-year institution in 1998 was $3,247, but the students and parents surveyed in the study estimated that yearly tuition runs from $5,000 to $6,000.

Knowledge of educational costs among youths and parents increased with higher parental income and education levels. Parents of black and Hispanic students were less likely than parents of white students to report awareness of college costs. The study uses data from the 7,910-person Parent and Youth Surveys of the 1999 National Household Education Surveys Program. 157 pages. Free online. National Center for Education Statistics, 1990 K St. NW, Washington, DC 20006. (202) 502-7300,

Keeping Count and Losing Count: Calculating Graduation Rates for All Students Under NCLB Accountability

Urban Institute Education Policy Center

In light of the role of graduation rates as criteria for school status under the No Child Left Behind Act, this study analyzes two methods for calculating accurate high school graduation rates – the National Center for Education Statistics formula and the Adjusted Completion Ratio – against the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI), a method developed by study author Christopher Swanson. The latter two studies prevent inflation of numbers better than the NCES measurement, the report says, but only the CPI can calculate rates for specific racial and ethnic categories. 43 pages. Free online. Urban Institute, 2100 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20037. (202) 833-7200,

Citizenship: A Challenge for All Generations
National Conference of State Legislatures

This survey polled 1,286 Americans (632 between age 15 and 26, the rest over 26) to compare their sentiments on the “qualities of good citizens.” Respondents were asked whether six actions were important to being a good citizen: obeying the law, voting, following government and political issues, contacting elected officials about problems, volunteering and donating money. The older contingent in the study identified each of these qualities as important far more frequently than did the younger group. Among 15- to 26-year-olds, those who had taken courses in civics or American government identified voting as important 24 percent more often than did those who had not taken such classes. 18 pages. Free online. National Conference of State Legislatures, 7700 E. First Place, Denver, CO 80230. (303) 364-7700,

First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Early Childhood Home Visitation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Despite citing “strong evidence of effectiveness,” a task force reports information was insufficient to determine whether early childhood home visitations for families in state family services’ systems actually curtail violence against the children. The task force was, however, able to recommend early visitation, based on significant reductions in child maltreatment. 10 pages. Free online. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road, MS D-25, Atlanta, GA 30333. (404) 639-3286,

Vital Voices: Building Constituencies for Public School Reform
Academy for Educational Development

This report draws from in-depth interviews with seven grantees of the Ford Foundation’s Constituency Building for Public School Reform Initiative. Using examples from these projects, authors Janice Hirota and Lauren Jacobs lay out the goals and challenges for mobilizing and shaping public school reform on a local level. 112 pages. Free. Academy for Educational Development, 100 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011. (212) 243-1110,

Are Small Schools and Private Schools Better for Adolescents’ Emotional Adjustment?
American Sociological Association

While possibly providing better educational results, smaller schools might be worse for adolescents’ mental health than larger schools, according to this report by Toni Terling White of Texas State University. White analyzed results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health and found that “small schools are associated with higher levels of depression and a greater likelihood of attempted suicide for male students. In addition, private schools are associated with increased odds of the use or threat of use of weapons by both male and female students.” 24 pages. Free online. The American Sociological Association, 1307 New York Ave. NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 383-90055,