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New Kids' Report: MN Could Do Better

Eighteen percent of children in Minnesota live in immigrant families. (Children's Defense Fund - Minnesota.)
Eighteen percent of children in Minnesota live in immigrant families. (Children's Defense Fund - Minnesota.)
October 24, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Every three years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports on the well-being of America's children of every race in every state. The report out today shows the modest recovery since the recession has not lifted all boats equally. African-American, Latino and American Indian children fare worse than white and Asian-American kids.

The Foundation's associate director of policy reform and advocacy, Laura Speer, says the disparities reflect a history of structural racism that began with European settlement and continues today with how some policymakers talk about immigration.

"There are more than 18 million children who are themselves immigrants or who have at least one parent who was born outside of the country," she says. "That's about one in four kids. Their success is really very closely connected to the future success of our country."

The report reiterated all children's need for strong families and equal access to good education and healthcare, and urged policymakers to do more to help them.

In Minnesota, the disparities are even more pronounced than national ones. The well-being of the state's white children ranks fifth in the country. But its African-American, Latino and American Indian children score in the bottom half of states. Minnesota kids who are Asian or Pacific Islander rank third worst in the nation.

Bharti Wahi with Children's Defense Fund Minnesota says policymakers can do better.

"Public policies may not be working for children of color, immigrant children and American Indian children," she laments. "It might be in the way that they are designed. Do they take into account the cultural nuances in curriculum or classroom or health outreach?

Wahi says disparities are a problem in Greater Minnesota as well as the metro area. She says expanding the child-care assistance program and paid family and medical leave, for example, would help level the playing field for children of color.

Wahi says the Race for Results report is helpful because it lays bare the challenges specific to each state.

"Our immigrant populations and how they got to this country are all slightly different," she notes. "You know, we're a state that has a high number of folks that have been part of refugee resettlement. What we may need and what we will need in Minnesota is going to be a little bit different."

In Minnesota, 18 percent of children live in immigrant families and half of those are low-income.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN