At first glance, it looks like Connecticut is one of the best states for the well-being of children.
The state is ranked eighth in the country by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s most recent Kids Count report, which measures how children and families do in education, community and family, health, and economic well-being.
But Liz Fraser, policy director for the Connecticut Association for Human Services, said after diving deeper into the data, it’s clear that significant racial and ethnic disparities remain in Connecticut.
“When parents do better and have more opportunity for economic mobility, the data shows that their children will do better as well, there’s more opportunity to move where they want to move or to go to better schools,” she said. “And in our state, the children who have more opportunity are generally white children.”
Fraser and her colleague Sheryl Horowitz, association chief researcher and evaluation officer, presented further analysis of this year’s report to lawmakers and advocates last week. They compared the well-being of children today to data released in the first Kids Count report in 1990.
They concluded that Connecticut overall scored well in most categories, especially in education where the state is ranked third in the country, but those scores mask deficiencies that exist for subsets of people, namely children and families of color.
“There has been a history of bias and racism and all sorts of factors that have put people of color in extreme disadvantages that accumulate,” Horowitz said. “These are not isolated factors—they all kind of feed on each other, and combine and escalate.”
The Kids Count report, which uses the most recent data available from 2017, shows that Connecticut shines in some areas — overall, the state has reduced teen pregnancy and increased school participation and attendance since 2010.
And thirty years ago, Fraser said Connecticut was one of the best states for children to live, especially because more parents had secure employment, which likely came with benefits like health care coverage.
Today, that’s no longer the case.
“Where other states are doing better, we are now one of the ten bottom states in that area,” Fraser said, “meaning a large portion of our children are living in families where no parent has full-time, year round employment.”
Children and families of color are disproportionately affected. The rates of black and Latino children living in high-poverty areas — about one in five — continue to be higher than white children, where one in 100 lives in those areas, according to the report.
Even in education, where Connecticut excels the most, a higher percentage of black and Latino children do not meet school proficiency levels when compared to white children. Horowitz said it’s not difficult to trace these gaps and disparities back to a long history of unequal treatment.
“Knowing that if some people are disadvantaged, in order for them to be given the same resources as everyone else, you first have to make up for all those disadvantages that have put them way behind,” she said.
One way to do that is taking a two-generational approach — by channeling support, funding and initiatives not only to children, but to their parents as well, Horowitz said the state might be able to get onto a better path.
“You’re not just working with the child or working on issues that impact the child, but you are, simultaneous, looking at the child in the context of the family within they live,” she said.
“It’s not enough to just give the child schooling, but you have to make sure that that parents have enough education opportunity, that they can get a good job and that they can work with their child to ensure that they have the right kind of resources to do well in school.”
Connecticut will be able to remain a leader in child well-being only if disparities like these are exposed and addressed, Horowitz said, so that all children and their families can get the help they need to succeed.
To read the full 2019 Kids Count Data Book, visit aecf.org/databook