Report Highlights Stark Racial Disparities Among U.S. Children

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African-American, Latino and American Indian children lag well behind white and Asian children based on a dozen measures of success, a report released Tuesday found.

The 33-page report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, revealed stark differences among races and ethnic groups in an index based on the 12 measures of success from birth through young adulthood. (See graphic below.)

Casey presented the findings at an event at the U.S. National Archives in Washington, followed by a panel discussion led by former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien.

“We’re learning – and think this report documents – that too many of our children are essentially consigned to the sidelines, as if they’re not worth investing in,” said Patrick McCarthy, Casey’s president and CEO.

“This particular report – and this discussion that we’re about to have today – is a chance to really delve deep into some of the most important challenges that our nation faces today,” McCarthy said. “This is our opportunity to begin rewriting our future, changing the trajectory for those millions and millions of children who are even now developing as we are having this conversation.

He called on non-profits, governments, businesses, the faith community, residents and parents to join together behind a rallying cry: “We will not sit by and watch as our children are denied the opportunity to develop to their full potential.”

The report noted that children of color will represent a majority of American children by 2018 and that people of color will comprise a majority of the workforce by 2030 and a majority of the population by 2050.

Casey, well known for its detailed, annual “Kids Count” report, said it will follow up with more reports tracking the barometers for childhood success among racial and ethnic groups.

The index, based on a single composite score of 0 to 1,000, showed U.S. Asian and Pacific Islander children have the highest score at 776 followed by white children, 704; Latino children, 404); American Indian children, 387; and African-American children, 345.

The report provided sobering statistics on individual categories used in compiling the index.

For example, the report found, at least one of every three African-American, Latino and American Indian children lives in a household with an income below the poverty line.

Another key measure of success, high school students graduating on time, also showed wide disparities, with 94 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children and 83 percent of whites graduating on time, compared with 71 percent of Latinos, 69 percent of American Indians and 66 percent of African-Americans.

Given the rapid changes in U.S. demographics, the report said, bridging the gap between children of color and others will prove vital to economic success for America.

“The price of letting any group fall behind, already unacceptably high, will get higher,” the report stated.

It noted McKinsey & Co. researchers found that if the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and African-American and Latino student performance had caught up with white students by 1998, the gross domestic product in 2008 would have been up to $525 billion higher.

“If America is to remain prosperous for generations to come,” the report said, “all children must have a fair chance to succeed. We are truly in a race against time to deliver better results for our kids.”

The report recommended continued gathering and analyzing of racial and ethnic data to “inform all phases of programs, policies and decision making…. These data can become an analytic tool to manage and effectively allocate resources necessary to help children and their families thrive.”

Such data, the report said, should be used to “target investments to yield the greatest impact for children of color.”

The report also urged creation of a “comprehensive inventory” of promising, evidence-based programs and practices to improve outcomes for children of color. “Too often,” the report said, “the resources of public systems serving children and families are spent on programs that lack evidence and without input from the families and communities they are intended to serve.”

In addition, the report called for strategies that connect people of color to new jobs and opportunities in economic growth and workforce development.

“As America’s demographics shift, ensuring that communities of color can participate in and contribute to economic growth and development is not just an issue of social justice – it is an economic imperative,” the report said.

“The obstacles that block the path to opportunity for so many children are daunting to confront,” the report said, “but they must be addressed. As profound demographic shifts, technological advances and changes in global competition race toward us, no individual can afford to ignore the fact that regardless of our own racial background or socioeconomic position, we are inextricably interconnected as a society. We must view all children in America as our own –  and as key contributors to our nation’s future.”

The report also broke out data by states. (See report for breakdown by racial and ethnic groups in each state.)