Despite improvements over the past decade, the advocacy group Kids Forward argues that improving the economic well-being of Wisconsin’s children has stalled.
The group is calling on lawmakers to take aggressive steps to ensure the progress that has been made isn’t negated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This improvement is detailed in a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which ranks Wisconsin 10th among U.S. states for overall childhood well-being.
“The challenge before us is whether we can capitalize on signs of recovery from the devastating impact of the pandemic, ensure that recovery is equitable, and set new expectations for progress on key measures that were stalled pre-pandemic,” said Erica Nelson, advocacy director at Kids Forward in Madison.
The Kids Count report includes data from 2019, the latest year for which the information is available. Even before the pandemic began, Kids Forward says the state’s economic recovery had begun to stagnate, particularly for children.
According to the Kids Count report, the percentage of Wisconsin children in poverty decreased from 19 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2019. The percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment also decreased from 30 percent to 21 percent over the same period.
And the percentage of children in the state living in households with a “high housing cost burden” decreased from 35 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2019.
But other measures in the report — such as childhood obesity and the percentage of low birth-weight babies — worsened over the decade it covered. Plus, Kids Forward notes the measures of well-being for kids in Wisconsin “remain remarkably similar to last year’s report, signifying that more aggressive steps need to be taken to improve conditions for family stability and prosperity.”
As noted in prior reports, measures of economic well-being aren’t equal across racial and ethnic groups in Wisconsin. Statistics from Kids Count show that rates of poverty for African American children in the state are four and a half times higher than for white children. Latino children experience poverty at more than three times the rate of white children, and Asian children in the state are twice as likely to be living in poverty.
Compared to other states, Wisconsin was ranked 8th for measures of economic well-being, 9th for education, 16th for health and 20th for family and community, which includes factors like teen births, children living in high-poverty areas and children in single-parent families.
See the full Kids Count report for Wisconsin by using the interactive map: http://www.aecf.org/interactive/databook?l=55