The Center on the Family, the state grantee for the nationwide KIDS COUNT project, has released the 30th edition of the KIDS COUNT® Data Book, an annual data study funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that examines trends in child well-being.
The Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains—economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. This year Hawai‘i ranks 24th of the 50 states in terms of overall child well-being, according to the Data Book.
The state’s ranking in child economic well-being slipped from 30 in 2018 to 34 in 2019, putting Hawai‘i in the bottom third of the country. This has much to do with high housing costs, since, according to Ivette Rodriguez-Stern, “When families are paying too much for housing, they have a harder time meeting other basic needs, such as child care, food and health care, and they can’t save or build financial stability.” Hawai‘i ranks among the bottom five states in children living in households with a high housing cost burden, with nearly two in five children living in these households.
Hawai‘i’s ranking in the education has also slipped, going from 37 in 2018 to 40 in 2019. Despite improvements over the past decade, the state continues to rank in the bottom third on reading and math proficiency and is ranked 33 in the on-time high school graduation rate.
However, with nearly all Hawai‘i’s children covered by health insurance, the state ranks among the top 10 states in the health domain. Hawai‘i is also doing well in terms of family and community, ranking 15th in this domain. With only seven percent of children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, Hawai‘i ranks among the top 10 states on this indicator. The teen birth rate has also seen a dramatic 42-percent decline during the period examined.
This year’s Data Book also calls attention to the approximately 4.5 million young children in the country who live in neighborhoods where there is a high risk of failing to count kids in the 2020 census. Roughly 39 percent of Hawai‘i’s young children live in hard-to-count census tracts, and an undercount of young children would shortchange 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.