Hispanic children face big challenges in Washington

A groundbreaking report finds lagging educational, health and job results for several minority groups, particularly for Latino kids.
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The Race for Results report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation tracks challenges for young people of different ethnic groups.

A groundbreaking report finds lagging educational, health and job results for several minority groups, particularly for Latino kids.

Washington's Latino kids lag behind the rest of the nation's Hispanic children when facing societal odds stacked against them, a new report concluded. Overall, children of color in Washington face dramatically greater odds than this state's white kids, the same study said.

A first-time nationwide study of children in five racial groups looked at 12 factors measuring health, educational achievements and barriers such as poverty and teen pregnancy that could affect a child's progress toward a good education and life. The Annie E. Casey Foundation plans to repeat the study annually. The Children's Alliance and the Washington Budget and Policy Center are the foundation's collaborators in Washington.

In broad terms, the study found that Washington's Latino children face more societal barriers than the national Hispanic average. American Indian, Asian, African-American and white kids in Washington fare slightly to noticeably better than their national averages. But in Washington and nationwide, white kids are positioned much better than children of color.

The Casey Foundation report crunched together statistics on 12 factors in an extremely complicated way to map out the five racial groups across 50 states. The factors included birth weights, preschool enrollments, fourth grading reading attainment, test scores,  graduation rates, one- or two-parent homes, home environments and numbers of children living in poverty. It then graded each racial group in each state on a 1 to 1,000 basis. The score, according to the report, is "intended to provide a single composite score to compare how children are progressing on key milestones across states and racial groups."

The study report acknowledged a weakness in that specific problems for specific ethnic groups cannot be identified statistically in each state — meaning only aggregate scores are available for each group on a state-by-state basis. The Children's Alliance is working on a breakdown of the 12 factors and five racial groups in Washington to identify potential problem areas that can be targeted to make improvements in outcomes, said Jon Gould, the alliance’s deputy director.

The report's writers want to use its numbers as a baseline to measure future progress on a year-by-year basis.

“Smart policies can close the gaps that put children of color at a disadvantage in life,” says Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance, in a press release. “We can act to close this opportunity gap, or we can push it wider, swallowing up not only their potential but our shared future.”

On the report's 1,000 point index, Washington state's Asian/Pacific Islander children and white children had the highest scores, 760 and 710 respectively. African-American and Indian children were in the 400s, but were above the national averages for their ethnic groups. In both cases, the state's children ranked 13th nationally for their group.

In contrast, the 377 score for Hispanic children in the state lags behind the national average of 404, and the state's rank is just 32nd nationally. 

Another factor pointing to the challenges for Hispanic children here is that they comprise the largest minority ethnic group in the state, which is somewhat more white than the national average. According to U.S. Census' 2012 estimates, Washington is 11.7 percent Latino.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8