Opinion

Hurdles remain for NC’s children of color and immigrant children

Rob Thompson
Rob Thompson

For North Carolina to prosper in the future, all children must have the opportunity to succeed. Yet children of color, who will soon make up the majority of children in North Carolina, face persistent barriers to achieving their full potential. Children living in immigrant families, 86 percent of whom are children of color in North Carolina, also face substantial and disproportionate barriers to success.

According to the 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children of color face significant hurdles in health, education and economic security. African-American, American Indian, and Hispanic and Latino children in North Carolina are more likely to be born underweight, less likely to live in financially stable neighborhoods and less likely to graduate high school than white children.

Children of color and children of immigrant families are the future of our state. All of us – policymakers, the business community, child advocates, and others – must prioritize improving outcomes for these children.

This is the second Race for Results report by the Casey Foundation; the foundation released the first report in 2014. The report measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups.

The 2017 report shows little progress across many indicators compared to the 2014 report. Importantly, key indicators of economic security stayed about the same or worsened for African-American and Hispanic and Latino children. The percentage of children living above 200 percent of the federal poverty line increased slightly for both groups—32 percent to 33 percent for African Americans and 23 percent to 24 percent for Hispanic and Latino children.

To address these persistent inequities in North Carolina, NC Child has teamed up with the N.C. Division of Public Health Women’s Branch and the state’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to develop a tool, the Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA), that enables decision-makers to intentionally focus and align policies and programs to improve equity and address social determinants of health, such as economic security. Implementation of the HEIA is currently being piloted in several projects across the state.

The report’s bright spot features two indicators related to older youth and young adults. Young women ages 15-19 are delaying childbirth at a much higher rate: 89 percent to 94 percent for African-American youth, 86 percent to 92 percent for American Indians, and 84 percent to 92 percent for Hispanic and Latino youth. Additionally, the percentage of young adults 19-26 who are either working or in school has also improved significantly for African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanics and Latinos in North Carolina.

The 2017 Race for Results report has a special focus on children in immigrant families, many of whom are at a crossroads given the potential repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The report lays bare a stark gulf in prosperity for children living in immigrant families, many of whom are children of color:

▪ 414,000 kids and youth in North Carolina are children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. Of those, 86 percent are children of color.

▪ Only 36 percent of North Carolina children in immigrant families live above 200 percent of the poverty line ($49,200 / year for a family of four) compared to 54 percent of children in U.S. born families.

▪ 61 percent of North Carolina children in immigrant families live with a householder that has at least a high school degree compared to 92 percent of children in U.S.-born families.

The report makes three recommendations to help ensure all children and their families are afforded opportunities to reach their full potential:

▪ Keep families together and in their communities – Helping to keep children with their families enables them to meet developmental milestones and for parents to meet the needs of their children.

▪ Help children in immigrant families meet key developmental milestones – The overall well-being of children is key to our nation’s future and is influenced by their environments. We can and must choose policies that make those environments more supportive and healthy.

▪ Increase economic opportunity for immigrant parents – Meaningful programs and policies that improve opportunities for low-income workers and deal with the needs of parents and their children save taxpayers by reducing the costs of safety-net programs.

Rob Thompson is the senior policy and communications adviser at NC Child.

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