Hawai‘i ranks 24th in national rankings for child well-being

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kathleen T Gauci, (808) 956-3760
KIDS COUNT Project Coordinator, Center on the Family
Posted: Jun 27, 2018

Courtesy of The Anne E. Casey Foundation
Courtesy of The Anne E. Casey Foundation

Despite gains in education, data points to needed investments

Hawai‘i falls in the middle range on overall child well-being, ranking 24th out of 50 states according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book®, released June 27th by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Data Book — which examines trends in child well-being across areas that represent what children need most to thrive — found that while there have been some gains on education measures, Hawai‘i still falls behind in the education domain, ranking 37th out of 50 states.

“Reading and math proficiency rates have seen improvements over the past decade,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, the Hawai‘i KIDS COUNT project director at the University of Hawai‘i Center on the Family. “But our proficiency rates are still below the national average and Hawai‘i has hovered in the bottom third in the country when it comes to education for a good part of the decade. This signals a need for greater investments in our public education if we’re going to work toward greater improvements.”

Findings in other domains  

The annual Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains – education, economic well-being, health and family and community. Findings in the other domains include:

  • Hawai‘i has seen improvement in almost all indicators of economic well-being over the post recession years, including the percentage of children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, and children in households with a high housing cost burden. However, Hawai‘i continues to have one of the worst housing cost burden rates in the nation, ranking 48th on the housing indicator, and ranking 30th in the economic well-being domain.
  • Hawai‘i continues to do well in the health domain, ranking 13th in the nation. Hawai‘i has among the smallest share of children without health insurance (2 percent), tying for second in the nation on this indicator.
  • Hawai‘i is also doing well in the area of family and community, ranking 12th in this domain. There were no significant changes in the percentage of children in single-parent families, in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, and living in high-poverty areas over the past decade. However, following the national trend, the teen birth rate in Hawai‘i has continued its impressive decline and is down 42 percent from 2010.

Census undercount of young children                                                                              

This year’s Data Book also calls attention to the roughly 4.5 million young children in the United States who live in neighborhoods where there is a high risk of failing to count kids in the 2020 census. In Hawai‘i, about 39 percent of children under five years live in hard-to-count census tracts. An undercount of young children in the upcoming decennial census would short-change child well-being over the next decade by putting at risk hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding for programs that are critical to family stability and opportunity, including Head Start, SNAP, school lunches, and child care subsidies. Based on census data, Hawai‘i receives more than $630 million annually in federal funding for programs that impact children. An inaccurate 2020 census will also adversely affect research and advocacy efforts that use data to identify and analyze problems, document disparities, develop policy solutions and evaluate the efficacy of programs for years to come.

The Foundation offers the following recommendations to achieve a more accurate census:

  • maximize the U.S. Census Bureau’s capacity by fully funding census outreach efforts and appointing a qualified and permanent director to lead the agency;
  • have state and local governments and community organizations invest in educational outreach to ensure the most vulnerable communities are counted;
  • broaden the circle of messengers (from child care providers to members of the clergy) and organizations (from public schools to libraries) who can provide outreach in their communities;
  • address the digital divide by providing all families online access either in local libraries or schools; and
  • address privacy and confidentiality concerns.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available for download at http://www.aecf.org/resources/2018-kids-count-data-book/. Additional information is available at https://datacenter.kidscount.org/, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps, and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices at https://mobile.kidscount.org/.