Education Improving, Poverty Worsening Among Hawaii Children

The 2014 KIDS COUNT data book compares children's well-being before and after the recession.

·By Alia Wong

Hawaii’s children are making strides in education but face worsening economic conditions since the period before the recession, according to the newest KIDS COUNT Data Book.

The report, which was released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compiles national and state-level data on the well-being of children. Hawaii falls smack dab in the middle of the data book’s overall state rankings, at 25th place.

The report looks at 16 indicators in 14 areas related to children’s well-being: economic well-being, education, health and the family and community context.

Keiki Child Center of Hawaii in Pearl City. 4.30.14 ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Conditions for Hawaii’s children have improved on some fronts since the pre-recession era and worsened on others.

For example, on three of the four economic indicators — children living in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment and children in households with a high housing cost burden — conditions have worsened since the pre-recession period. For one, 17 percent of the state’s children were living in poverty in 2012, versus 13 percent in 2005.

Hawaii also has one of the highest rates in the country of children in households with a steep housing cost burden: 46 percent in 2012, versus 37 percent in 2005. (The U.S. average in 2012 was 38 percent.)

On the brighter side, the state’s children continue to make gains in education, showing improvement among all four indicators, including reading and math proficiency and on-time high school graduation rates. For example, 70 percent of the state’s fourth graders lacked proficiency in reading in 2012, compared with 77 percent in 2005. The percentages for eighth-grade math proficiency were 68 percent versus 82 percent, respectively.

Still, Hawaii still ranks near the bottom third on the education indicators. It ranked 31st in the country in 2012 for education.

Hawaii children’s well-being in the health domain hasn’t experienced much change since the pre-recession period. The state still has one of the smallest percentages of children without health insurance (3 percent in 2012) and one of the lowest child and teen death rates (21 deaths per 100,000 in 2012).

The state’s strongest area is the family and community domain, though the state has worsened in two indicators: the percentage of children in single-parent families (31 percent in 2012, up from 27 percent in 2005) and the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas (6 percent, up from 2 percent).

“The good news is that we’re no longer slipping in rank where it comes to the overall well-being of Hawaii’s children, as had been the case in recent years,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, who directs the Hawaii KIDS COUNT data efforts and works as a specialist in the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center on the Family. “We’re now somewhere in the middle and while we’re doing well in the areas of health and in the family and community context, we’re ranked much lower where it comes to the economic well-being of our children and education … But these gains must continue in the years ahead in order for child outcomes to improve and for our state to stay strong, stable and globally competitive.”

Discussion

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing children's well-being in Hawaii?