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Progress for Wisconsin's Children Stalls, Worse for Kids of Color

Wisconsin ranks 13th overall in the nation for children's well-being, and a new report says it's in desperate need of federal funds to help address the disparities faced by children of color. (cherylholt/Pixabay)
Wisconsin ranks 13th overall in the nation for children's well-being, and a new report says it's in desperate need of federal funds to help address the disparities faced by children of color. (cherylholt/Pixabay)
June 17, 2019

MADISON, Wis. — The well-being of children in Wisconsin has gotten worse since 2010, according to the new 2019 Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report shows the state ranks 13th nationwide, but gaps still remain between children of color and their white peers.

The report showed 36% of African-American children live in poverty, which is four times the rate of white kids in the state.

Erica Nelson, the Kids Count Race to Equity Project Director for Kids Forward, said there has been some progress in areas such as an uptick in children attending preschool.

"Improvement in child and teen death rates and teen birth rates, those are things to celebrate,” Nelson said. “However, there remain a lot of challenges when we look and aggregate the data by race for families and children of color."

The report ranked Wisconsin 18th for the percentage of children without health insurance, noting other states implementing Medicaid expansion have far surpassed its top-five status. On education, the state ranked 30th in fourth-grade reading proficiency as nearly two-thirds of fourth graders don't read at grade level.

Broadly speaking, children in the United States had a better chance at thriving in 2017 than in 1990 – with improvements in 11 of the 16 Kids Count measures of child well-being. But racial and ethnic disparities such as those in Wisconsin persist across the country, according to Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs with the Casey Foundation.

"Children of color – in particular black children, Native American children, and Latino children – face significant barriers and obstacles that really lock in their potential and lock in their ability to contribute to communities,” Boissiere said.

Boissiere added it's important to have an accurate census count in 2020. Fifty-five major federal programs, including Head Start and the Children's Health Insurance Program, allocate more than $880 billion each year nationwide based on census data.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI