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2007 Releases

Report Describes How Metropolitan Areas Are Failing U.S. Children

Related website reveals socioeconomic inequalities and names best and worst metropolitan areas for children by race/ethnicity

For immediate release: Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Boston, MA -- A new report from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) that scores the living conditions experienced by children in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas reveals a consistently bleak picture for black and Hispanic children compared to white and Asian children and suggests approaches to address some of the factors behind whether or not a child thrives.

The report, "Children Left Behind: How Metropolitan Areas Are Failing America's Children," is available for download in the box marked "Spotlight" here. http://diversitydata.sph.harvard.edu/

The report is based on data drawn from a new website called DiversityData.org that was developed by HSPH in partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Health and with support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. The data featured on the website are derived from a wide variety of sources.

DiversityData.org will be the focus of a presentation by the researchers tomorrow, Wednesday, January 24, at the National Press Club, First Amendment Room, Washington DC, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. To attend, RSVP diversitydata@cfah.org

Designed to be used by the public, the media, and researchers, DiversityData.org goes beyond many similar demographic websites by including information on health factors such as disability rates, health insurance, births to teenager mothers, births to unmarried mothers, prenatal care, smoking during pregnancy, preterm births, and low birthweight rates.

Additionally, the website has interactive features allowing any user to easily create profiles for specific metropolitan areas, as well as customized rankings illustrating the metropolitan areas with the highest and lowest indicators of health, education, neighborhood conditions, and housing opportunities.

"Children Left Behind: How Metropolitan Areas Are Failing America's Children" is the first in a series of data analyses that will be developed from the DiversityData.org website. The report, by lead authors Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Associate Professor of Society, Human Development and Health at HSPH, and Barbara Krimgold of the Center for the Advancement of Health, focuses on the well-being of America's children, who are more racially and ethnically diverse than the total U.S. population. The metropolitan areas highlighted in the report represent where approximately two-thirds of America's children live.

In addition to Professor Acevedo-Garcia and Ms. Krimgold, the report was authored by Nancy McArdle of Harvard; Theresa Osypuk of the University of Michigan; and Bonnie Lefkowitz, CFAH Consultant.

"We chose children as the focus of the first report derived from DiversityData.org because they are the future of the country, and we are failing them," said Professor Acevedo-Garcia. "The website we have developed enables us to look at the full circumstances of a child's environment. The analysis revealed that not only do black and Hispanic children literally live in different metropolitan neighborhoods than do other children, but that black and Hispanic children face life experiences fraught with dangers to their well-being. We hope this report serves as a reminder to policymakers that their youngest constituents are also their most vulnerable and that factors that undermine a child's life need to be addressed. Perhaps the first policymaking need is alleviating child poverty. Reducing neighborhood and school segregation should follow closely."

Charts and graphs illustrating the findings of "Children Left Behind" are available for download in the box marked "Spotlight" here .

Using a summary measure of neighborhood socioeconomic conditions, the analysis revealed:

SOME OF THE BEST METROPOLITAN AREAS:

  • For black children were: Denver, Colorado Springs, and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill
  • For Hispanic children were: Ann Arbor, Cincinnati, and Washington DC
  • For Asian children were: Austin, Baltimore, and Washington DC
  • For white children were: Ann Arbor, Boston, and San Francisco

SOME OF THE WORST METROPOLITAN AREAS:

  • For black children were: Buffalo, Chicago, and New York
  • For Hispanic children were: Bakersfield, Providence, and Springfield
  • For Asian children were: Bakersfield, Fresno, and New York
  • For white children were: Bakersfield, El Paso, and New York

The analysis also found that:

• OVERALL INDICATORS: Black children had the worst scores for indicators of health, family income and home ownership, neighborhood income and home ownership, residential and school segregation, and school poverty. In most cases, Hispanic children were the next worse off.

• POVERTY: Across the 100 metropolitan areas with the largest child populations, the average black child lived in a neighborhood with a poverty rate of 21 percent, compared to a neighborhood poverty rate of eight percent for the average white child, 19 percent for the average Hispanic child, and 11 percent for the average Asian child.
  • HEALTH AT BIRTH: Black children are more likely to be low birthweight and preterm than children of other racial/ethnic groups. Hispanic children start with a better health picture than black children, comparable to that of white children, however the subsequent socioeconomic conditions that face Black and Hispanic children compound the initial health disadvantage of black children and undermine the initial health advantage of Hispanic children.

    RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION: Across metropolitan areas, black children experience the highest level of residential segregation with respect to white children, followed by Hispanic children. Asian children experience much lower levels of segregation.

    SCHOOL SEGREGATION: Although less than half (48 percent) of primary school students in the largest metropolitan areas are white, the average white student attends a school where most fellow students are also white. Similarly, although just a fifth of primary school students in the largest metropolitan areas are black, in 40 percent of the areas studied, the average black student attends a school that has a mostly black population. Of all groups, Asian students tend to be the most integrated and to attend schools that most closely mirror the composition of students in the metropolitan areas where they live.

    HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION: Black children are more likely to live in neighborhoods with larger proportions of single-female-headed families than children in other racial/ethnic groups. Such households are significantly more at risk for poverty than married-couple households because education levels, workforce participation, and average wages for women all lag behind those of men. In 2005, the poverty rate for children living in female-headed households without a husband present was 43 percent compared to nine percent for children living in married-couple households.

    HOME OWNERSHIP: In 70 percent of metropolitan areas, the average white child lives in a neighborhood where between 70 and 80 percent of households own their home. In 20 percent of areas studied, the average Asian child lives in a neighborhood with similarly high home ownership rates. There is not a single metropolitan area where the average black child experiences a neighborhood with such a high home ownership rate, and in only five percent of the metropolitan areas studied did the average Hispanic child.

Click here to read profiles of specific metropolitan areas and to see rankings according to the indicators below:

*Health
*Population Demographics and Diversity
*Housing Opportunities
*Economic Opportunities
*Education
*Residential Integration and Neighborhood Characteristics
*Crime
*Physical Environment

The report also describes the means by which the disparities confronting American children can be addressed. It emphasizes the importance of relieving child poverty rates - which are the second highest among developed countries, according to UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre - and note the federal government's ability to increase eligibility and benefits under the Transitional Aid for Needy Families program, Medicaid, and the State Child Health Insurance Program.

The authors also suggest that all government levels can remove barriers and provide incentives to ameliorate residential and school segregation and to support home ownership by promoting neighborhood choice and mobility, preserving school integration programs, and changing the way No Child Left Behind and other educational efforts are funded to equalize expenditures across local jurisdictions.

"DiversityData.org was developed as a tool that gives an unprecedented insight into how Americans in metropolitan areas live," said Ms. Krimgold. "We chose indicators based on research that showed the significance of racial/ethnic disparities in health, education, employment, and housing opportunities across metropolitan areas. We hope the website becomes a frequent resource for policymakers and for researchers who wish to improve the lives of Americans."

This research and the data analysis underpinning DataDiversity.org are an ongoing project of the HSPH Department of Society, Human Development, and Health. The Center for the Advancement of Health is facilitating dissemination and policy advocacy activities. The project was supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

See the latest news from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Contacts:
Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
(617) 432-3952

Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
(617) 432-6052