Magazine article The Futurist

U.S. Youth at Risk

Magazine article The Futurist

U.S. Youth at Risk

Article excerpt

High rates of child poverty, teenage pregnancy, and failure to graduate from high school are among the many troubling signals for children and their future in the United States, according to Kids Count Data Book 1994: State Profiles of Child Well-Being, a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Children are in increasing trouble because the family is, the report suggests. "Strong, capable, resourceful families are an absolute necessity for improving outcomes for children," says Douglas W. Nelson, the Foundation's executive director. "The inescapable reality is that we have no alternative, no substitute for families." In addition, Nelson points out that the weakening of churches, clubs, social organizations, neighborhood networks, and small businesses often leaves troubled communities without "the vibrant infrastructure necessary to shield children and families from the economic and social disadvantage that surrounds them."

The report examines 10 key factors affecting children's futures:

1. Low birth weight: Babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth have a high likelihood of experiencing developmental problems. The number of such babies--7.1% of all births in 1991--raises questions about whether disadvantaged mothers receive adequate prenatal health care.

2. Infant mortality: Though infant mortality has decreased overall, the gains have not been distributed equally among the population. Children born in distressed areas are at greater risk, and the rate of infant mortality among African Americans is twice that of whites. Again, inadequate health measures are the suspected culprit, according to the report.

3. Child death rate: Older children, too, remain at risk, says the report. In 1991, more than 15,000 children between the ages of 1 and 14 died, and the death rate for African-American children (48.1 per 100,000) was almost twice that of white children (27.8).

4. Unmarried teenager births: The share of all births occurring to unmarried teenagers rose to 9% in 1991, up from 7.5% in 1985. The Foundation describes the trends in teenage births as "alarming," noting that research has found that children born to unmarried teenagers are more likely to drop out of school, become dependent on welfare, or become single teenage parents themselves. …

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