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Report Finds Huge Racial and Ethnic Disparities For VA Children

A new study finds white children in Virginia get a much better start than Hispanic or African-American children. (Pixabay)
A new study finds white children in Virginia get a much better start than Hispanic or African-American children. (Pixabay)
October 24, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – A major new report on child well-being shows huge disparities by race and ethnicity in Virginia. The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 Race for Results study looks at a variety of health, education and income data, state-by-state.

Margaret Nimmo Holland, the executive director of Voices for Virginia's Children, says they found big gaps. For instance, nearly half of Virginia's Hispanic children and nearly 60 percent of African-American children live in poor households. And Holland says that's not an isolated statistic.

"The differences are pretty startling," she says. "So Asian children in Virginia actually score twice as high on the indicators of child well-being than African-American children."

She says there is a lot we can do to close those disparities. Like many child advocates, Holland points to congress' failure to continue funding for the children's health insurance plan SCHIP - a bipartisan program that helps 65,000 Virginia children get medical care.

According to the Casey Foundation, 45 percent of Virginia children are non-white, and that percentage is growing as the state attracts large numbers of immigrants.

Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Foundation, says they found immigration is a big part of the reason Virginia's economy has been growing. She says the children in the state's diverse population will shape its future.

"As they get older, these kids are going to drive local and state economies," she explains. "They're going to contribute to their communities and they're really going to be the driving force in ensuring that we're all better off in the long run."

Holland says the state should invest in educating that future workforce to keep attracting companies.

"A state that can recruit employers like Facebook or Amazon, we absolutely have to have world-class education systems," adds Holland. "We have to be a commonwealth that does not leave behind large groups of children."

Holland says to effectively address the problems, state lawmakers have to consider the racial and ethnic implications of their actions.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA