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Although D.C.’s share of out-of-school three- and four-year-olds is the lowest in the U.S. at one in five, District children face some of the nation’s harshest economic conditions—affecting their education and wellbeing—a new report finds.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national youth-advocacy nonprofit, on Tuesday released its 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which tracks children’s wellbeing across several indicators. The analysis presents a mixed-bag for District youth, who have seen significantly higher rates of reading and math proficiency from 2007 to 2015 as well as a slight uptick in health-insurance enrollments from 2008 to 2014. Still, the portion of those living in poverty—26 percent, as of two years ago—remained the same as it was in 2008, with one in ten teens (roughly 3,000) neither in school nor working in 2014.
“The KIDS COUNT report reflects that too many children in the District are growing up in conditions that do not support their ability to succeed in school and in life,” explains HyeSook Chung, executive director of D.C. Action for Children, a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in a statement. “As we have seen first-hand with the District’s huge strides in establishing a universal Pre-K program and securing access to health care coverage, we know that when District leaders work together to align resources that prioritize the well-being of children, we can make a vast difference.”
Among other D.C.-data highlights: 36 percent (or nearly 42,000 children) lived in households that spent more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income on housing in 2014; six percent of teens were recorded as having abused alcohol or drugs in the 2013–2014 academic year, on the high end of the range nationwide; and the share of on-time high-school graduates doubled between the 2007–2008 and 2013–2014 school years, from 44 to 22 percent. Much of the report is based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education, and federal health organizations.
D.C. Action for Children notes that some of the improvements observed over the past several years may partly reflect the region’s “relatively healthy economy” in view of the national recession as well as “rapidly changing demographics.” To build on such gains, the Annie E. Casey Foundation recommends expanding access to “high-quality” early care and education programs in addition to higher education and job training. It also supports a robust paid-family leave benefit.
You can read the full report here.