The newest edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT® Data Book illustrates that while Massachusetts leads the nation in rankings of overall child well-being, the Commonwealth struggles to address inequities between families and children of color and their white peers.
This year’s KIDS COUNT publication continues to present national and state data across four domains — economic well-being, education, health and family and community — and ranks states in overall child well-being. These data are compared to earlier reports of the same or similar data, illustrating long-term trends that point to where we are making progress, and where we are stagnating.
Some alarming statistics illustrate the racial disparities that persist in Massachusetts and the widening racial equity gap in child well-being. All data points in the most recent report are for the period 2016-2020.
In the broad category of Economic Well-Being, Massachusetts ranks 15th in the nation, with the percentage of Massachusetts children living in poverty overall at just 12% (compared to 17% nationally). But looking across racial lines:
- 29% of Latino children and 24% of African-American children in Massachusetts live in poverty, compared to 6% of white children.
- 44% of Latino children and 40% of Africa-American children have parents without secure employment, compared to 19% of white children.
- 47% of Latino children and 47% of African-American children live in households with a high housing cost burden (defined as spending 30% or more of income on housing), compared to 24% of white children.
This year's report takes a special focus on the toll taken on child mental health and well-being with the onset of the pandemic. As stated in the report:
"Results of the National Survey of Children’s Health show the extraordinary toll of the mental health pandemic for youth. Data from 2016 and 2020 indicate children across the nation and in most states were more likely to deal with anxiety or depression during the first year of the pandemic than previously...Nationally, the number of kids ages 3 to 17 struggling with these issues jumped by more than 1.5 million, from 5.8 million to 7.3 million." (p. 6)
In Massachusetts, the data show a 50.8% increase in children age 3-17 with anxiety or depression, nearly double the national average.
These data illustrate the importance of investing in anti-poverty solutions that target racial disproportionality to ensure all children can reap the benefits of living in a state that invests highly in family and societal well-being.