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New Report on California's "Border Kids" Breaks Stereotypes

Jun 14, 2007

OAKLAND, CA—Children living along the California-Mexico border face substantial challenges to their health and educational well-being, according to a new report released today by Children Now, a leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children thrive. Focused on California’s “border kids”—the 800,000 children living in San Diego and Imperial counties—the report finds that 78,000 border kids don’t have regular access to a doctor, and only about half are meeting California’s rigorous academic achievement goals. These are but two of many clarifying data points issued in the report, entitled The Unique Challenges to the Well-Being of California’s Border Kids.

The report also challenges commonly-held stereotypes about border families. For example, only half of all border kids come from immigrant families—families with at least one parent born abroad. Moreover, 93% of all border kids live in families with at least one working parent, which mirrors the statewide percentage, and the vast majority of children of immigrants living on the border—81%—are U.S. citizens, a rate on par with the rest of California.

“This report presents an accurate portrait of children living along the border and throughout the state, correcting some prevalent misperceptions about the region,” said Corey Newhouse, Children Now’s senior policy associate and the report’s co-author. “It’s absolutely critical that all Californians, particularly the state’s policymakers, know the facts about this large segment of the state’s child population.”

A comprehensive set of indicators of border kids’ health, education and economic well-being is provided in the report. Wide disparities between border kids and the rest of the state’s children are highlighted, including:

  • 22% of children in immigrant families in Imperial County and 15% in San Diego County lack health insurance, compared to 7% of all California children
  • 45% of children in Imperial County and 23% in San Diego County are English Learners, compared to 25% of all California children
  • 31% of children in Imperial County and 16% in San Diego County live in poverty, compared to 20% of all California children

“Addressing these issues early in a child’s life is the key to success,” said Ted Lempert, Children Now’s president. “It becomes exponentially more difficult and expensive to make up lost preventative health and formative education ground later in a child’s life.” Governor Schwarzenegger and the state legislature are currently considering providing health coverage to all California’s kids and expanding preschool access.

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