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Monday, May 22 , 2017
For Immediate Release
TRENTON – For the nearly 2 million children that call New Jersey home, latest child well-being data from the 2017 New Jersey KIDS COUNT show progress in the areas of health and economic well-being, thanks in part to the vital supports of federal safety-net programs.
The rate of uninsured children is at an all-time low, more students are starting the day with school breakfast through the federal school meals program, more households benefited from a financial boost through the earned income tax credit and more families participated in the NJ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help put food on the table.
“It is clear that federal investments in children are paying off, but as Congress debates on the future of healthcare, as well as funding for critical programs that help kids grow, learn and stay healthy, our voices for children are needed more than ever to make sure we do not lose ground on these tremendous milestones,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which produces the annual databook.
“When Governor Christie decided to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act through NJ FamilyCare, it opened the door for so many individuals to get healthcare coverage. In fact, 55 percent of total federal funds received by New Jersey was for Medicaid,” Zalkind said.
With fewer than 75,000 kids living without insurance, New Jersey saw a 40 percent decrease in the number of uninsured children from 2010 to 2015. Among low-income kids, the change is even more dramatic with a 66 percent decline over time.
Household median income increased from nearly $82,000 in 2011 to $90,270 in 2015. And while fewer low-income children live in families spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs, more than 80 percent of them are still spending too much on housing. This compares to only 62 percent of all U.S. low-income children.
Despite these gains, economic and racial disparities in education, child health, and juvenile justice persist. The percentage of children living in poor or low-income families remained relatively unchanged or worse off than five years ago. However, there was a slight improvement between 2014 and 2015 in the number of children living in poverty.
More than half of black and Hispanic children live in low-income families, compared to less than 20 percent of Asian and white children; the state average is 32 percent. In 2015, a family with two adults and two children earning roughly $48,000 was considered low-income or at 200 percent of the poverty level.
Education. New Jersey saw a 60 percent increase in charter school enrollment, from roughly 26,000 to 42,000 students between the 2011-12 and 2015-16 school year. Still, the number of children enrolled in charter schools represent just 3 percent of the total public school enrollment.
The graduation rate during the 2015-16 school year held steady from the previous year at 90 percent, increasing from 86 percent in 2011-2012. Students with a disability or with limited English proficiency had graduation rates below 80 percent, while the graduation rates of economically disadvantaged, black, Hispanic and American Indian students ranged between 82 and 83 percent.
Early Education. New Jersey saw a slight uptick in preschool enrollment, as well as a 25 percent drop in half-day preschool enrollment, corresponding to a 4 percent spike in enrollment in full-day programs. The rate of 3- and 4-year-olds not in school held steady at 37 percent compared to more than half of young children not in school for the U.S.
Child Care. The number of licensed child care centers continued to decline across the state from 4,084 centers in 2012 to 3,896 in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016, New Jersey also saw a 2 percent decrease in registered family child care providers, who care for children in their own home.
Chronic Absenteeism. During the 2014-15 school year, 12 percent of New Jersey’s children missed too much school. Economically disadvantaged students and students in special education were more likely to be chronically absent, with a rate of 17 and 18 percent, respectively. Among racial groups, black and Hispanic children had absenteeism rates higher than the state average.
Child Health. In addition to the dramatic drop in uninsured kids, the percentage of children immunized by age 2 increased from 72 to 82 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Infant health indicators found that black babies were more likely to be born with a low birthweight - 12.5 percent compared to 6.7 percent of white babies. Infant mortality was also highest among black infants, with a rate of 8.7 deaths per every 1,000 live births. This is still a marked improvement from the previous year at a rate of 10.6.
Lead Testing. The most recent data indicates that in 2015, there was a decrease in the percentage of children tested with elevated blood lead levels of 5 µg/dL or higher. At the same time, fewer children were being tested, especially during the critical ages of 6 – 26 months, a 10 percent decrease between 2012 and 2015. Moreover, only 56 percent of homes confirmed to have a lead hazard completed the necessary abatement to make the home safe.
Juvenile Justice. In 2014, the number of juvenile arrests decreased by 40 percent since 2010. And commitments to juvenile detention facilities continued to fall, from 423 in 2011 to 128 in 2014.
White youth accounted for more than half – 54 percent – of all juvenile arrests, followed by black youth at 45 percent in 2014. Still, racial disparities persist. Black youth were significantly overrepresented in these numbers since they comprised just 15 percent of the state’s child population under 18 in that same year. In 2015, 67 percent of youth in county detention were black, compared to just 10 percent of white youth.
Substance Abuse. In 2015, the top substances for which 18- to 24-year-olds sought treatment were heroin with nearly 5,000 admissions followed by marijuana with almost 3,500 admissions and lastly, alcohol with about 2,000 admissions. Among children age 17 and under, marijuana received the highest number of admissions at roughly 1,500.
ACNJ’s release of KIDS COUNT was held in conjunction with the launch of their #NJVotes4Kids campaign, a statewide effort to put the needs of children at the forefront of candidates’ campaigns. The event, held at Thomas Edison State University, welcomed all gubernatorial candidates to attend and share their agenda for children. The following were in attendance: Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Sen. Raymond Lesniak of Union County, Lt. (Retired) Steven Rogers, and Tenafly Councilman Mark Zinna.
“As New Jersey elects a new governor and legislature this fall, it’s important to remember the faces behind the data and recognize the incredible opportunity government leadership has in making real change for children,” Zalkind said.
“Investing in early care and education, ensuring homes are safe and lead-free and promoting alternative options for troubled youth are the measures we’ve outlined in our #NJVotes4Kids campaign. But change cannot happen without committing to the necessary funding to support these investments.”
KIDS COUNT is a national and state‐by‐state statistical effort to track the state of children in the United States, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) is a statewide child research and action organization and the New Jersey Kids Count grantee.