Children of color in every state in the country continue to lag significantly behind their Asian and White counterparts in access to quality education and economic opportunities, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Consequently, these kids are more likely to “fall out of the middle class and are more likely to stay in the lower class as adults.”
With the fastest growing populations in the country being minority groups with the lowest levels of educational achievement, the Casey Foundation issued the report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, to call on policymakers to renew their attention on the formidable barriers that face too many students. Failure to do so will continue to undermine the United States’ ability to compete on a global level. For example, the report cites research that establishes that if the United States had closed the racial achievement gap and African American and Latino students had caught up with their White counterparts by 1998, the economy in 2008 would have grown by an additional $525 billion.
“Race for Results is a call to action that requires serious and sustained attention from the private, nonprofit, philanthropic and government sectors to create equitable opportunities for children of color, who will play an increasingly large role in our nation’s well-being and prosperity,” explains Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation.
The report ranked states in a Race for Results Index and awarded them composite scores for how well children of different ethnic groups do, based on a scale of one to 1,000. The index of 12 indicators measure a child’s success from birth to adulthood, including reading and math proficiency, high school graduation data, teen birthrates, job prospects, family income and education levels, and neighborhood poverty levels.
The Casey Foundation acknowledges that the index does not capture all of the many complicated dynamics that contribute to a child’s failure or success, but it does, explains Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform and advocacy, “provide a high-level but nuanced look at children in each racial demographic and some of the conditions that explain their circumstances. We see that where a child lives matters and that in nearly every state, African-American, American Indian and Latino children have some of the steepest obstacles to overcome. Our analysis also clearly demonstrates that growing up in an immigrant family can have a significant impact on access to opportunity.”
Although African-American, American Indian and Latino children face some of the biggest obstacles on the pathway to opportunity, no one group is meeting all milestones. Asian and Pacific Islander (API) children have the highest index score at 776, followed by White children at 704. Scores for Latino (404), American Indian (387) and African-American (345) children are considerably lower. It is these three groups – including some subgroups of API children – who are faced with the biggest challenges.
In addition to the harsh realities of being born into poverty and unstable family environments, barriers emerge later in their school career, including disciplinary policies that are too harsh and unconstructive. “These policies that often trap them in juvenile justice systems, racial profiling by police and disproportionate arrests of people of color, more severe sentencing for the same offenses and the greater likelihood that young people of color will be tried as adults and incarcerated in adult prisons than whites for the same conduct,” says the report.
The report also makes policy recommendations to help create pathways to opportunity for all our students. The Casey Foundation stresses the importance of working across all sectors and analyzing and sharing reliable and updated data – a key analytical tool that is essential to allocate and assign resources to programs that help children and families prosper. The report also urges that cities and states include better racial inclusion strategies into their economic development projects, connecting vulnerable populations – namely students from low-income families – to new jobs and economic activity.
“It is time to not only think differently, but also to act urgently,” the report states. “The price of letting any group fall behind, already unacceptably high, will get higher.”