Some indices of well-being among California's children -- educational progress and access to health care, for instance -- have been improving, but most are relatively unchanged and some economic factors have worsened in recent years, an exhaustive new data compilation indicates.
More than a third of California's nearly 10 million children are living in homes in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment, according to the Kids Count Data Book, a nationwide report on children's conditions underwritten by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The yearly compilation, released Wednesday, includes two new factors related to the recession -- children affected by home foreclosure and those with at least one unemployed parent. It found that while nationally, 4 percent of children had been impacted by foreclosure, in California it's 7 percent. And while nationally 11 percent of children had a parent who lost a job, in California it's 13 percent.
"The economic downturn has left California children particularly vulnerable," said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's California Kids County affiliate. "Over the past few years, California children have been the target of the state's most significant, painful budget cuts, like the recent $3.3 million reduction in vision services for Healthy Families and the $300 million in permanent reductions to early learning and development programs, which will result in the loss of approximately 50,000 child care slots."
The voluminous report on California, includes these other significant findings:
Fourth- and eighth-grade academic achievement levels generally edged upward between 2005 and 2009.
Children born to mothers under 20 and immigrant mothers have declined slightly, but births to unmarried mothers have climbed from 34 percent in 2004 to 40 percent in 2008.
Children living in traditional households -- two married parents -- declined slightly to 69 percent in 2009.
Latinos now comprise 50 percent of California's children, up three points from 2005 to 2009, while children in immigrant families have remained steady at 48 percent, and whose parents are not citizens are steady at 45 percent.
Children not covered by health insurance declined from 13 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2008.
Children's obesity has remained steady in the 30-31 percent range.
The percentage of children with at least one parent having a four-year college degree or higher has edged upwards while the proportion with less than a high school diploma has edged downward in recent years.
With 20 percent of its children living in poverty, California exactly matches the national number, and is unchanged from 2000, although the state's poverty rate dipped to as low as 17 percent in 2007. Discounting Puerto Rico's 57 percent poverty rate, the national range is from 11 percent in New Hampshire to 31 percent in Mississippi.