Washington state is a pretty OK place for a kid to grow up, but it helps to be White and wealthy, according to data released by a local nonprofit.
The report, Kids Count: Databook 2016, ranks the Apple State 15th across the nation using 16 metrics that look at health, economic well-being, education and “family and community.”
The state got its highest score in children’s health, making it fifth in the nation, and worst in economic well-being, where it bottomed out at 26th nationally. In “family and community” and education, Washington ranked at 17 and 22 respectively.
Although the state scored at least middle of the pack in most indicators, much of the data shows worse outcomes for Washington’s Black and Hispanic residents than for White and Asian ones.
Unemployment across the state was 7 percent in 2013, the last year for which data was included in the report, but that was 3.7 percent unemployment for Asians compared to 14.2 percent for Blacks.
Similarly, household median income averaged over five years ranged from $42,037 for an Hispanic family compared with $82,533 for an Asian one.
White and Asian students were also considerably more likely to enroll in a four-year college after finishing high school than were their counterparts.
“When we fail kids in any one particular way, it can have this cascading effect,” said Paola Maranan, executive director at the Children’s Alliance, a nonprofit that works on policies that impact children.
These patterns weren’t unique to Washington.
“On nearly all of the measures that we track, African-American, American Indian and Latino children continued to experience negative outcomes at rates that were higher than the national average,” the report reads.
Ultimately, the systems in place don’t work for children of color, who will soon outnumber White children. That means the systems need to change, Maranan said.
“These lingering gaps are of ever greater consequence,” Maranan said.
Locally, policymakers within the state of Washington and Seattle/King County have been putting more money behind health care and advocacy for small children.
King County will put $400 million over the course of six years into its “Best Starts for Kids” plan, which aims to improve health and educational outcomes for children.
Research suggests that it’s important to target resources to poor families because where a person grows up has a significant impact on how well they do in life. Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, found a connection between growing up in a poor neighborhood and a lower average IQ, one that was mitigated if the child’s parent had grown up in a richer neighborhood.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development experimented with this in its Moving to Opportunity “demonstration,” which found that people who were assigned a voucher to live in a wealthy area had better physical and mental health 5 to 7 years in the future than those who lived in neighborhoods with unrestricted vouchers or those who stayed in places of concentrated poverty.