National, state, and local research, policy and advocacy to improve the lives of kids

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2016 CA Children's Report Card

A survey of kids' well-being and a roadmap for the future

RC-cover-400px.jpgWe’re told income inequality in California is among the highest in the US. We’re told some families can’t meet basic needs, even with two parents working full-time. We’re told the dream of providing a better future for our kids is dying, replaced by an economic reality in which stable employment and a comfortable income are accessible to a few, while the majority are left behind. 

What gets lost in these conversations is the most powerful solution: investing in quality programs for kids. Not only do children suffer disproportionately from poverty, they also hold the key to ending it. Making sure all children have the supports they need to thrive will dramatically lower the poverty rate in the future.

We know the devastating impact poverty has on kids affecting a range of outcomes, from health, to brain development, to their chances of success in school. Over four million California children come from low-income households, and more than two million live below the poverty line. Those numbers are too big to ignore. The future of millions of children depends on California’s ability to make smart, quality investments in children’s well-being. 

In this year’s Report Card you’ll find statistics that bear out what we’re told about inequality and the widening opportunity gap kids face. For example, you’ll read about disparities in school suspensions and expulsions for African American students, who are three times more likely to experience those disciplinary measures than white students. But you’ll also find strong evidence that inequities can be addressed with smart policies, like investing in quality child care and preschool and reforms like the Local Control Funding Formula, which helps ensure that English language learners, kids in foster care and the more than three million low-income students in our state will have more resources directed to them. 

California is a wealthy state, with more assets than most to devote to its children’s well-being. It’s time to put more of our resources to work for kids, by investing in quality programs to help lift them out of poverty and set them on the road to success.

California's Children

California is home to more than 9 million children. With 12 percent of the nation’s children, the well-being of California kids has a big impact on the well-being of children nationally. Unfortunately, California recently ranked 38th out of 50 states in children’s well-being. 

Research has shown a strong connection between children’s socioeconomic status and overall well-being. California ranks 49th on measures of kids’ economic well-being, surpassing only Mississippi. While it is a prosperous state, around 1 in 4 California children lives in poverty. 

California is also one of the most diverse states in the US. The state’s children are racially, ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse. Today, 1 in every 2 children are Latino, and 22 percent of students are English learners (EL) from at least 60 different language groups. Nearly half the state’s children (4.4 million) live in immigrant families, and the majority of those (91%) are U.S. citizens. 

Yet research consistently finds large disparities in kids’ well-being based on racial, ethnic and language background.15, 16 In a state as diverse as California, our future civic and economic well-being hinges on closing those gaps, and ensuring every child is healthy, well-educated and safe.



Download the 2016 Report Card

See individual sections of the report