Oregon in Bottom Half of States in Latest National Child Well-Being Rankings

PORTLAND, Ore., June 13, 2017 — Despite a strong economy, Oregon has fallen behind a majority of states in the welfare of its children, ranking 31st in overall child well-being, according to the 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community — that represent what children need most to thrive.

In education, with a ranking of 40, Oregon’s kids lag far behind. This is due to the third highest percentage of high schoolers not graduating on time in the nation and below grade level reading proficiency among nearly two-thirds of our fourth graders. Large class sizes and less time in school than other states are significant contributors to these outcomes. Pre-K attendance also was lower in Oregon than in a number of other states, as well as the national average, with 57 percent of children ages 3 and 4 not attending early learning or preschool programs.

“We must prioritize our children’s education if we don’t want to see our state fall further behind national trends,” said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon. “The future of Oregon’s economy, civic engagement and way of life depends on the success of our next generation.”

According to the Data Book, Oregon ranks:
• 21st in the family and community domain. A steady decrease in Oregon’s teen birth rate since 2010 is a positive trend for Oregon’s families.
• 21st in health. Oregon continues to have a low rate of child and teen deaths and is below the national average for percentage of low-birthweight babies. Only 4 percent of Oregon children are not covered by health insurance.
• 30th in economic well-being. Despite low unemployment in Oregon, one in five children still lives in poverty.
• 40th in education. More than a quarter of Oregon high school students did not graduate on time in 2014-15, compared to 17 percent nationally.

“Investing in children works. For example, in 2009, Oregon lawmakers made a conscious decision to expand access to public health insurance coverage. Since then, uninsured rates have decreased. The KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that need more of that to improve education and economic outcomes for kids,” said Hunt. “Now is the time to make investments in Oregon children – not cuts.”

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book will be available June 13 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Oregon ranks 29th in the nation for child well-being according to new report

About 1.7 million more children live in low-income families today than during the Great Recession, according to the newly released 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. The total number of children in low-income families across America is now 18.7 million, or around one out of every four children. Nearly a third of children are living in families where no parent has full-time employment. And even when parents are working full time, wages and benefits are often not sufficient to adequately support a family.

In Oregon, which the report ranks as 29th in the nation for overall child well-being, the data shows that families continue to struggle to get by and face narrowing opportunities for success in the future. Despite a slight improvement in child poverty since 2012, child poverty remains more than 20% higher than before the onset of the Great Recession. Moreover, Oregon families face some of the highest housing costs as a percentage of income and more than one-third of children lived in a family in which no parent had full-time, year-round employment. In addition to families’ economic hardship, Oregon students were less likely to attend preschool, read proficiently by the fourth grade, or graduate high school on-time than their peers in the majority of other states.

“Without a change in the trajectory of the economic lives of our families and the educational success of our students, Oregon’s prosperity is at risk,” said Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon. “This legislative session we’ve made significant strides in these areas by ensuring a fair shot for all workers and making significant investments in quality preschool for our lowest income students. However, the size of the gap between where we are and where we as a state want to be requires even more concerted efforts and further investments in the coming years.”

Oregon’s lagging rankings in the areas of economic security and education stand in contrast to the progress the state has made in the area of health insurance coverage. Since the expansion of Oregon’s Healthy Kids insurance program in 2009, the state has cut its rate of uninsured children nearly in half – the largest reduction in the country over that time period.

“When Oregon lawmakers act on behalf of kids, we can make significant progress,” said Hunt. “And when voters speak, lawmakers will act. We need to speak loud and clear so that every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The 2015 Data Book is available at www.aecf.org.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Children First for Oregon, founded in 1991, is a nonpartisan child advocacy organization, committed to improving the lives of Oregon’s vulnerable children and families. Its mission is to make long-term, systemic change by advocating for policies and programs that keep children healthy and safe, and strengthen families.

Safety Net Reduces Oregon’s Child Poverty by Half

Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United StatesWithout any government intervention, 31% of Oregon children would live in families that are unable to meet basic needs like groceries, housing, and childcare, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The KIDS COUNT® Data Snapshot, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, also finds that taking the value of social programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) into account reduces this rate to 14%.

The report analyzes the U.S. Census Bureau’s alternate, more accurate, measure of family economic security, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), to evaluate the effectiveness of the social safety net in helping families meet their basic needs. According to the report, social programs reduced the number of children living in families that are unable to meet basic needs by at least one-third in every state.

However, child poverty remains high in spite of these investments, especially among children of color. Even taking into account the value of safety net programs, 25% of children of color in Oregon live in families unable to meet basic needs, compared to 10% of their non-Hispanic White peers.

“Too many hard working families are struggling to get ahead in this economy, but the social safety net is doing what it was designed to do,” says Children First for Oregon Executive Director Tonia Hunt. “These critical programs are helping thousands of families in Oregon put food on their table and keep roofs over their heads. Now we need to work to strengthen these programs so that no child goes without basic needs being met.”

In Oregon, SNAP illustrates both the success and inadequacy of the safety net in helping families meet their basic needs. Due to extensive outreach within the state, Oregon has one of the nation’s highest rates of participation in SNAP, and the program reduces the rate of children with unmet basic needs by more than 20%. “SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger in Oregon,” says Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate at Oregon Food Bank. “But for most families, SNAP benefits are insufficient to meet basic nutritional requirements for the whole month.”

To create an economy in which all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy, smart, and economically secure, Children First for Oregon has convened 60 pro-child advocacy organizations to form the 2015 Children’s Agenda. The Agenda includes legislative priorities that will reward hard work with family-sustaining wages and make critical investments to strengthen the social safety net, such as:

  • increasing the number of families served by Employment Related Day Care;
  • strengthening Oregon’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; and
  • renewing the Working Family Childcare Tax Credit.

“When we invest in Oregon’s children, we invest in our future,” says Hunt. “As citizens and advocates we must come together to demand policies that make Oregon the best place to be a kid.”

Click here to download the full report.

A Two-Generation Approach to Strengthening Oregon’s Economic Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest policy report, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach, highlights that investing in families as a whole is critical to Oregon’s future prosperity. Children succeed when families succeed. As a state we must ensure that every parent has access to a job with family-sustaining wages and that every child has access to high-quality, affordable education from preschool to college. Download the full report and then join United for Kids, the Oregon Children’s Movement, to help guarantee that policies are created that ensure a strong foundation of economic success for children and families in Oregon.

Oregon’s Children of Color and the Race for Results

To prepare for a strong future, we must ensure all children have the resources and opportunities to achieve their full potential. However, a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows we have much ground to cover for all kids – especially children of color – to thrive.

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children raises serious concerns that children of color face profound barriers to success. The report compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups. In Oregon, African-American and Latino children are nearly twice as likely to be low-income as their white peers. In fact, Oregon is one of only nine states in which African-American and Latino children trail white children on every milestone where data was available.

By 2018, children of color will represent the majority of children in the United States. By 2030, they will have become the majority of the labor force. Amid these rapidly changing demographics, the impact of leaving so many children behind will take an increasingly heavy toll on our well-being.

“In Oregon, we must remove barriers so that every child, regardless of race or ethnicity, has a chance to succeed and to contribute to our state and national progress,” says Children First Executive Director Tonia Hunt. “We share a common future. We can not afford the cost of letting any group fall behind.”

We invite you to download the full report here and join us on Facebook and Twitter to continue the discussion of how we can eliminate systemic inequities for our state’s children using the hashtag #Race4Results.