South Carolina kids doing worse
By Phil Noble , president of the S.C. New Democrats.
I have written this column before. In fact, I’ve written this same basic column about this time every year for the past several years.
And I’ll write it again next year, and every year for as long as I do this column because it’s so important. It’s about how well the children of South Carolina are doing. The answer in a word is – worse.
First, the back story: Since 1948, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. One of its most important projects is Kids Count, an annual status report on how kids are doing across the country and in each individual state.
Regardless of where one might be on the political spectrum of left or right, Democratic or Republican, Baptist or Buddhist or whatever, Kids Count is generally accepted as the definitive gold standard of measuring the well-being of kids in America and the individual states.
Kids Count collects mountains of data that measure the status of kids and crunches it all down into six key areas – demographics, economic well-being, education, family and community, health, safety and risky behaviors.
Its website, www.datacenter.kidscount.org, is nothing short of amazing in providing easy access to all this data and it gives users the ability to slice and dice the data in literally thousands of ways.
At the risk of burying you in statistics, here are a few of the most significant or interesting findings from the most recent data about kids in South Carolina:
• Overall ranking – Last year, South Carolina ranked 45th of the 50 states in the well-being of our children, the same place as in 2013, but down two places from 2012 when we ranked 43rd.
• Demographics – Sixty-five percent of the kids in the state are white, 28 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic and 2 percent other. These percentages have been essentially unchanged for the last three years.
• Immigration – Despite the significant increase in immigration, 98 percent of all S.C. kids were born in state.
• Family income – The median family income of families with children is $50,967, virtually unchanged or down just a bit over the last seven years.
• Unemployment – Nine percent of kids live in a household where no adult is in the workforce.
• Poverty – Twenty-seven percent of our children live in poverty, which is up from 24 percent in 2009.
• Severe poverty – Among the most troubling statistics is the measure of the percentage of children who live in what the study classifies as concentrated poverty. In 2000, this number was 6 percent, but it has since more than doubled to 15 percent.
• Education – In the broad category of education, our kids rank 43rd, having slipped two places since 2012.
• Early education – The portion of our 3- and 4-year-old children who are not enrolled in any type of early education rose from 54 percent in 2007 to 59 percent in 2013.
• Graduation rates – We are actually doing significantly better here. In 2007, 38 percent of our students did not graduate from high school on time, which was down to 28 percent in 2012. This is real progress.
• Health – The overall state of our kids’ health dropped from 40th in 2012 to 43rd in 2014.
• Death rate – The overall death rate for children and teens has dropped significantly from a rate of 41 per 100,000 children in 2007 to 31 per 100,000 children in 2011.
• Family and community – In this broad category, we have improved a bit from 43rd in 2012 to 41st in 2014.
• Single-family household – The number of children living in a single-family household in 2009 was 40 percent. In 2013, it had risen a bit to 42 percent.
• Teen birth rate – We have made significant progress here, in that the rate was 53 per 1,000 in 2008 and this dropped to 37 per 1,000 in 2012.
So what does all this mean? In short, life is getting worse for kids in South Carolina.
Yes, there have been some improvements in some areas, but overall it’s worse, not better; and it’s generally getting worse across the whole range of measurements.
What does this say about us in South Carolina? Try explaining to a kid in our state why this is happening.