One of the things we do on the Youth Development team here at BGCA is stay on top of all the latest research and studies and survey findings about the field of youth development and what is happening with young people and their families, so that way we can see what the most important trends are and apply them to how we serve you and your members. We’ve talked about how I am a big ‘ol nerd so its one of my favorite parts of my job. 🙂
This also means one of my favorite times of year is KIDS COUNT Data Book time of year! Annually, the Annie E. Casey Foundation releases this compendium of state-level data in a variety of areas like overall child well-being, economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The 2021 edition has a large focus on how children across the United States were faring before and during the COVID pandemic.
The data in the book can be useful to your Club in a few different ways. One clear use is to support fundraising, whether in grant proposals or in your overall messaging. It is also useful as we engage more and more in advocacy for policies by governments at all levels, local, state, and federal. But since we focus on youth development and programming here on the ClubX Blog, is there data here that can help us? Sure!
Knowing how our school-aged youth are doing can help us decide what kinds of enrichment activities to run, or what kind of expertise to look for in potential staff. If we are in a state with a high level of teens not in school and not working, we may double-down on teen recruitment efforts. Where there are a large number of children without health insurance, maybe we want to hold a family workshop at the Club one evening so caregivers can learn about free or low-cost options.
Because the data is broken down by state, you should check out the book for your state’s info. Thankfully they’ve made it easy, with both PDF and interactive versions of KIDS COUNT. You can click into the interactive version to see the state rankings on the various indicators, and click your state to learn more. We’ll focus here on some of the overall nationwide stats that I found particularly interesting this year.
ONE IMPORTANT NOTE! These kind of large-scale surveys tend to lag a year or two behind, just because of the amount of time it takes to gather the information and then figure out what it means. So while this is the 2021 edition, and they do include information gathered during the past year of COVID, they are measuring changes in well-being by comparing 2010 data to 2019 data. They’ve called out places where we know there will be some change because of the wildness of 2020 in the report, and future editions will give a clearer picture of how the pandemic changed the nation.
In 2019, fewer children were living in poverty, more parents were employed and fewer families were spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing costs.
While this is an encouraging finding, we know that the unemployment rate in 2020 and 2021 will have an impact on this stat. Ensuring we continue to focus on family financial well-being is vital to moving back in an upward trajectory.
86% of high school students graduated on time in the 2018-19 school year, an all-time high.
Another positive stat! We’ve done well communicating the importance of graduating on time to youth, and supporting them across the finish line. We’ve also seen how the past school year was affected by the pandemic. We can’t let that focus on graduating on time with a plan for the future slip.
Nearly all index measures show that children of color, particularly African American, American Indian, and Latino children, experience poorer outcomes in spite of their potential.
Even though all children overall have made gains in many areas, those gains are markedly less in most areas for children of color. We continue to fail on broad, systemic, societal levels to remove barriers and inequities for these youth. It’s another place that Boys & Girls Clubs have a tremendous opportunity to make real differences in communities and lives. We must be dedicated to this work.
Another thing to consider here, while Asian and Pacific Islander children tend to fare better than their peers as an overall group, when you break it down to look at various populations within that group, differences emerge. For example, while 10% of Asian and Pacific Islander children overall lived in poverty, 35% of Burmese, 27% of Hmong, and 25% of Bangladeshi children lived in poverty. This shows the importance of being familiar with the youth you serve and the unique challenges they and their families may be facing.
In 14 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, kids of color were the majority of the child population in 2019.
I loved how the report put it: “The future success of our nation depends on our ability to ensure all children have the chance to be successful.” This stat and the last one together should have us thinking deeply about our work moving forward.
While data like this can be incredibly useful, its not a substitute for being deeply embedded within and knowing the community that you serve. Your youth and families have needs as well as gifts, and together you can build a village that will give all youth the opportunities they deserve.
Check out the KIDS COUNT Data Book for more information on your state, and create custom reports in the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Want to learn more about using data in your organizational and program planning? Check out the CQI Toolkit for training and tools to guide your Club through a Continuous Quality Improvement cycle. We’ll keep bringing you the best of the latest research here on the ClubX Blog, so be sure to subscribe via email at the bottom of this page so you don’t miss a post.