report cover
2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book cover

Hawaiʻi once again ranks 24 out of 50 states on overall child well-being, according to the 2019 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, released June 17 by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book is the 30th edition of an annual data study that examines trends in child well-being across areas that represent what children need most to thrive.

While all four indicators of child economic well-being tracked by the report have improved since 2010, conditions have shown little to no improvements in more recent years, with the state’s rank for this domain slipping from 30 in 2018 to 34 in 2019.

Hawaiʻi now ranks in the bottom third when it comes to the economic well-being of our children,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, Hawaiʻi KIDS COUNT project director at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Center on the Family in the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

Affordable housing challenges

Of concern is the large proportion of children living in households with a high housing cost burden. Hawaiʻi ranks among the bottom five states on this indicator, with nearly two in five children living in these households.

“Affordable housing remains a challenge in Hawaiʻi. High housing costs present a significant challenge to low-income families that already have limited resources. When families are paying too much for housing, they have a harder time meeting other basic needs, such as child care, food and health care, and they can’t save or build financial stability,” said Stern.

Hawaiʻi’s ranking in the education domain has also slipped—going from 37 in 2018 to 40 in 2019—signaling the ongoing need for greater investments in children’s education. Despite improvements over the past decade, the state continues to rank in the bottom third on reading and math proficiency and is ranked 33 in the on-time high school graduation rate.

Findings in other domains

The annual Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains—economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

  • With nearly all Hawaiʻi’s children covered by health insurance, the state ranks among the top 10 states in the health domain. The percent of low birth-weight babies, the child and teen death rate, and the percent of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs have all remained relatively stable during the period examined.
  • Hawaiʻi is similarly doing well in the family and community context, ranking 15 in this domain. With only seven percent of children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, Hawaiʻi ranks among the top 10 states on this indicator. Following the national trend, the teen birth rate has also seen a dramatic 42 percent decline during the period examined.

Not every child counted

This year’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book also calls attention to the roughly 4.5 million young children in the United States who live in neighborhoods where there is a high risk of failing to count kids in the 2020 census. With roughly 39 percent of Hawaiʻi’s young children living in hard-to-count census tracts, an undercount of young children would shortchange child well-being over the next decade by putting at risk hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding for programs that are critical to family stability and opportunity.

For more information, read the Hawaiʻi KIDS COUNT Project’s news release.