LIHUE — Children in Hawaii are doing better than most states, but negative trends in certain areas could present cause for concern, according to a recent nationwide study.
The 2019 Kids Count Data Book, an annual report on childhood well-being published Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, showed Hawaii ranked 24 out of all 50 states in overall child well-being.
But despite improvements since 2010 in all four indicators of economic well-being, conditions have shown little to no improvements in more recent years, with the state’s rank for this domain slipping from 30th in 2018 to 34th this year.
“Hawaii now ranks in the bottom third when it comes to the economic well-being of our children,” Ivette Rodriguez Stern, Hawaii Kids Count project director, said in a press release accompanying the report.
Of concern is the large proportion of children living in households with a high housing cost burden. Hawaii ranks among the bottom five states on this indicator, with nearly two in five children living in these households, according to the study.
“Affordable housing remains a challenge in Hawaii. High housing costs present a significant challenge to low-income families that already have limited resources,” Stern said. “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.”
The Kids Count also revealed that Hawaii has slipped in the education domain, going from 37th in 2018 to 40th in 2019. Despite improvements over the past decade, the state continues to rank in the bottom third on reading and math proficiency and ranked 33rd in the on-time high school graduation rate, according to the report.
The annual report uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains — economic well-being, education, health and family and community. The study found several positive trends, specifically in the areas of health, family and community.
The study found that nearly all Hawaii’s children are covered by health insurance, meaning the state ranks among the top 10 in the health domain, and the percent of low birthweight 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.
The state is also doing well in the family and community context, ranking 15th in this domain, according to the report. With only 7% of children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, Hawaii 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.