|Report Shows Gains, Setbacks for Nation’s Children
Increase in Percentage of Children Living With At Least One Working
Parent; Unmarried Birth Rate Increases
Compared to national statistics for the previous year, there has
been an increase in the percentage of children living with at least
one working parent and the percentage of children living in households
classified as food insecure has declined. High school students
were more likely to have taken advanced academic courses and the
percentage of young adults who completed high school has increased.
The adolescent birth rate has dropped to a record low.
Increasing were: the percentage of children served by community
water systems that did not meet all applicable standards for healthy
drinking water, and the percentage of children living in physically
inadequate or crowded housing or housing that cost more than 30
percent of household income. The percentage of low birthweight
infants also increased, as did the percentage of births to unmarried
women. The rate at which youth were perpetrators of serious violent
crime increased slightly.
These findings are described in detail in America’s Children:
Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2007, the U.S. government’s
annual report that monitors the well-being of the Nation’s children
and youth. The report is a compendium of the most recently released
federal statistics on the nation’s children, issued by the Federal
Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. It presents
a comprehensive look at critical areas of child well-being. These
encompass family and social environment, economic circumstances,
health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education,
“The increase in the percentage of children living with a working
parent is welcome news,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of
the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of
the National Institutes of Health. “Secure parental employment
helps to reduce the psychological toll on families, brought on
by parental unemployment and underemployment.”
“This year also saw a rise in the percentage of children with
low birthweight,” Dr. Alexander said. Low birthweight infants are
at increased risk of dying in the first year of life, as well at
risk for serious disability. He added that a variety of research
efforts were under way to prevent preterm birth, a major cause
of low birthweight.
For the report’s 10th anniversary, the Forum members revised the
structure of the report, adding two new sections: Physical Environment
and Safety, and Health Care. Nine new indicators were also added.
These include indicators on child maltreatment, oral health, drinking
water quality, lead in the blood of children, child injury and
mortality, adolescent injury and mortality, sexual activity, college
enrollment, and asthma.
In 2005, 78.3 percent of children had at least one parent working
year round, full time — up from 77.6 percent in 2004, but below
the peak of 80 percent in 2000. The report states that this percentage
has remained relatively high, given the historical context of the
early 1990s, when the percentage was 72 percent.
The report noted that secure parental employment reduces the occurrence
of poverty and its attendant risks on children. Because most parents
obtain health care for themselves and their children through their
employers, a secure job for a parent can be important for determining
if a child has health care.
“Secure parental employment may also enhance children’s psychological
well-being and improve family functioning by reducing stress and
other negative effects that unemployment and underemployment can
have on parents,” the report explained.
Black, non-Hispanic children and Hispanic children were less likely
than white, non-Hispanic children to have a parent working year
round, full time. About 74 percent of Hispanic children and 62
percent of black, non-Hispanic children lived in families with
secure parental employment in 2005, compared with 84 percent of
white, non-Hispanic children.
The report stated that about 12 million children (17 percent)
lived in households classified as food insecure in 2005, down from
19 percent in 2004. The report explains that a family’s food security
is its access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy
life. The report’s food security status is assessed on the basis
of household self-reports of difficulty in obtaining enough food,
reduced food intake, reduced diet quality, and anxiety about an
adequate food supply.
“In some households classified as food insecure, only adults’ diets
and food intakes were affected, but in a majority of such households,
children’s eating patterns were also disrupted to some extent and
the quality and variety of their diets were adversely affected,” the
report noted. “In a subset of food-insecure households — those
classified as having very low food security among children — a
parent or guardian reported that at some time during the year one
or more children were hungry, skipped a meal, or did not eat for
a whole day because the household could not afford enough food.”
The percentage of children living in households with very low
food security declined from 1.3 percent in 1995 to 0.7 percent
in 1999 and has remained in the range of 0.6 to 0.8 percent since
Physical Environment and Safety
In 2005, 60 percent of children lived in counties in which concentrations
of one or more air pollutants rose above allowable levels, up from
46 percent in 2004, but a decrease from 65 percent in 1999. The report
noted that children have increased potential for exposure to pollutants
because they eat, drink, and breathe more, in proportion to the size
of their bodies, than adults. Ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide,
and nitrogen dioxide are air pollutants associated with increased
asthma episodes and other respiratory illnesses. Lead, often a component
of polluted air, can affect the development of the central nervous
system in young children and exposure to carbon monoxide can reduce
the capacity of blood to carry oxygen.
The Primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone is
the standard exceeded most often. High levels of ozone are influenced
by high summer temperatures. The report noted that ozone concentrations
tended to be lower in 2004 than in other years due to generally
lower summer temperatures that year.
The percentage of children served by community water systems that
did not meet all applicable health-based drinking water standards
rose from 8 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2005. However, the
percentage of children served by community drinking water systems
that did not meet all applicable health-based standards declined
from 20 percent in 1993 to about 8 percent in 1998. Since 1998,
this percentage has fluctuated between 5 and 10 percent. The report
explained that contaminants in drinking water may be quite varied
and may cause a range of diseases in children, including acute
diseases such as gastrointestinal illness, developmental effects
such as learning disorders, and cancer.
Regarding the housing that children lived in, the report stated
that, in 2005, 40 percent of U.S. households with children had
one or more of three housing problems: physically inadequate housing,
crowded housing, or cost burden resulting from housing that costs
more than 30 percent of household income. In 2003, 37 percent of
households with children had a housing problem. This percentage
has increased over the long term from 30 percent in 1978.
“The increase in housing problems among families primarily reflects
high housing costs,” said Darlene Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary
of Policy Development and Research at the Department of Housing
and Urban Development. “As a direct result of increased housing
costs we have seen significant increases in the number of households
experiencing cost burdens, including cost burdens exceeding 50
percent of household income. Rent burdens among very low income
renters with children accounted for about one-fourth of the increase
in families with housing problems during the 2003-2005 period,” stated
The report added that inadequate housing (housing with severe
or moderate physical problems) continues to decrease. In 2005,
5 percent of households with children had inadequate housing, compared
with 9 percent in 1978.
Family and Social Environment
In 2005, 37 percent of all births were to unmarried women, up from
36 percent in 2004. The percentage of all births to unmarried women
rose sharply from 18 percent in 1980 to 33 percent in 1994. From
1994 to 2000, the percentage ranged from 32 to 33 percent. The percentage
has increased more rapidly since 2000, reaching 37 percent in 2005.
The report noted that children are at greater risk for adverse consequences
when born to a single mother because the social, emotional, and financial
resources available to the family may be more limited.
In 2005, the adolescent birth rate dropped to a record low, to
21 per 1,000 young women ages 15–17, down from 22 per 1,000 in
2004, and 39 per 1,000 in 1991. This decline follows an increase
of one-fourth between 1986 and 1991.
There are substantial racial and ethnic differences among the
birth rates for adolescents ages 15–17. In 2005, the birth rate
per 1,000 females for this age group was 8 for Asians/Pacific Islanders,
12 for white, non-Hispanics, 31 for American Indians/Alaska Natives,
35 for black, non-Hispanics, and 48 for Hispanics. The birth rate
for black, non-Hispanic females ages 15–17 dropped by three-fifths
between 1991 and 2005, completely reversing the increase between
1986 and 1991.
The report noted that adolescent child bearing is often associated
with long-term difficulties for the mother and her child. Compared
with babies born to older mothers, babies born to adolescent mothers
are at higher risk of low birthweight and infant mortality. They
are more likely to grow up in homes that offer lower levels of
emotional support and cognitive stimulation, and they are less
likely to earn high school diplomas.
In 2005, 20 percent of school-age children spoke a language other
than English at home, up from 19 percent in 2003. Children who
speak languages other than English at home and who also have difficulty
speaking English may face greater challenges progressing in school
and in the labor market, the report explained. In 2005, 5 percent
of school-aged children had difficulty speaking English.
This year’s report included a new indicator, on child maltreatment
in the Section on Family and Social Environment. The report defined
child maltreatment as including “physical, sexual, and psychological
abuse, as well as neglect (including medical neglect).” In 2005,
there were 12 substantiated reports of child maltreatment per 1,000
children. From 1998 through 2002, the rate of substantiated reports
of child maltreatment varied between 12 and 13 reports per 1,000
children and has remained at approximately 12 reports per 1,000
children since 2002.
In 2005, the serious violent crime offending rate was 17 crimes
per 1,000 juveniles ages 12–17, up from 14 crimes per 1,000 in
2004. The report noted that while the 2005 rate is “somewhat higher” than
the 2004 rate, it is significantly lower than the 1993 peak rate
of 52 crimes per 1,000 juveniles ages 12–17.
“The level of youth violence in society can be viewed as an indicator
of youths’ ability to control their behavior, and the adequacy
of socializing agents such as families, peers, schools, and religious
institutions to supervise or channel youth behavior to acceptable
norms,” the report explained.
This year’s report included a new indicator on sexual activity.
The rate of high school students who reported ever having had sexual
intercourse remained at 47 percent from 2003 to 2005, a decline
from the rate of 54 percent in 1991. The report noted that early
sexual activity is associated with emotional and physical health
In 2004, students were more likely to have taken advanced academic
course work in mathematics, science, and foreign languages than they
were in 2000. In 2004, 50 percent of graduates had taken at least
one advanced mathematics course (defined as a course above Algebra
II), up from 45 percent in 2000 and almost double the 1982 percentage
of 26 percent. The percentage of students taking an advanced science
course also increased, from 63 percent in 2000, to 68 percent in
“In science, two-thirds (68 percent) of all high school graduates
in 2004 had taken a physics, chemistry, or advanced biology course,
almost twice the percentage of graduates in 1982 who had taken
this level of science course (35 percent),” the report stated.
In foreign languages, 35 percent of high school graduates had
taken a year three, year four, or advanced placement course in
2004, up from 30 percent in 2000 and double the percentage in 1982
In 2005, 88 percent of young adults ages 18–24 had completed high
school with a diploma or an alternative credential such as a General
Education Development (GED) certificate. This was a 1 percentage
point increase from 2004 and a 4 percentage point increase from
In 2005, 69 percent of young adults who had completed high school
enrolled in a two- or four-year college in the fall of the year
they completed high school. By comparison, in 1980 only 49 percent
of students who completed high school enrolled immediately after
The percentage of low birthweight infants (less than 5 pounds. 8
ounces) increased to 8.2 percent in 2005, up from 8.1 percent in
2004 and 7.9 percent in 2003. Among blacks, the percentage of infants
with low birthweight for 2005 was higher than for any other racial
or ethnic group, at 14 percent.
The report explained that low birthweight infants are at higher
risk of death or long-term illness and disability than are infants
of normal birthweight. The report noted that one reason for the
increase is the rise in the number of twin, triplet, and higher
order multiple births. However, low birthweight has increased even
among singleton births. The report added that changes in obstetrical
practices, such as the increasing trend toward inducing labor and
cesarean delivery, may also have contributed to the increase in
low birthweight. An increase in the use of assisted reproductive
technology may have also played a role in the increase.
The infant mortality rate was 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births
in 2004, unchanged from the rate in 2003. In the U.S., about two-thirds
of infant deaths occur in the first month after birth and are due
mostly to health problems of the infant or the pregnancy, such
as preterm delivery or birth defects.
The rates for two of the most frequent health conditions among
children, overweight and asthma, have not changed significantly
over the past few years but remain at a high level. During 2003-
2004, 18 percent of children ages 6-17 were overweight. The rate
was highest among black non-Hispanic girls with one-quarter being
overweight, compared to 16 percent among young white non-Hispanic
girls and 17 percent of Mexican American girls.
“Almost one in ten children have asthma,” said Edward J. Sondik,
Director, National Center for Health Statistics, "but like overweight
there are significant disparities.” In 2005, 13 percent of black,
non-Hispanic children under age 18 were reported to currently have
asthma, compared with 8 percent of white, non-Hispanic and 9 percent
of Hispanic children under age 18. Within the Hispanic population,
there are differences, with 20 percent of Puerto Rican children
and 7 percent of children of Mexican origin reported to currently
have asthma. For the first time, asthma is included as a regular
indicator in the report. “This 10th anniversary edition of America's
Children includes important new indicators of how our children
are faring," said Dr. Sondik. “It's been critical that, over the
past decade, this report grew to reflect new issues and new challenges
and report on them with the latest and best information available,” he
The report noted that in 2006, there were 73.7 million children from
ages 0–17 in the United States, representing 25 percent of the population.
This was down from a peak of 36 percent at the end of the baby boom
in 1964. In 2006, 58 percent of U.S. children were white, non-Hispanic;
20 percent were Hispanic; 15 percent were black; 4 percent were Asian;
and 4 percent were all other races. The percentage of children who
are Hispanic has increased faster than that of any other racial or
ethnic group, growing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980
to 20 percent in 2006.
Most other indicators in the report did not change significantly
from the previous year statistics were compiled. Among those indicators
that did not change were the percentage of children in poverty,
the percentage of children who received some form of nonparental
child care on a regular basis, the percentage of children with
at least one foreign born parent, the percentage of students who
smoked cigarettes regularly, and the percentage of students who
had five or more alcoholic beverages in a row.
Members of the public may access the report on-line at http://childstats.gov on
July 13. Alternatively, members of the public also may obtain printed
copies from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Information
Center, P.O. Box 2910, Merrifield, VA 22116, by calling 1-888-Ask-HRSA
(1-888-275-4772), or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
An audio news briefing will be held for members of the media on
July 12, 2007, at 11 a.m. E.DT. After a brief introduction, reporters
will be able to take part in a question and answer session with
agency spokespersons. To participate, dial 1-888-781-3339 5-10
minutes before the conference begins. Teleconference name: Report
on America’s Children
Telephone availability instructions: If you would like to ask
a question during the call press *1 on your touchtone phone, and
to withdraw your question press *2. You may queue up at anytime.
You will hear a tone to indicate your question is pending. A rebroadcast
will be available for 24 hours after the briefing. To listen to
the rebroadcast, dial 1-800-475-6701, Access code: 880070.
The Forum’s Web site at http://childstats.gov contains
all data updates and detailed statistical information accompanying
this year’s America’s Children in Brief report. As in
previous years, not all statistics are collected on an annual basis
and therefore, some data in the Brief may be unchanged from last
year’s report. Members of the public may access the report at http://childstats.gov.
While supplies last, single copies of the report are available
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