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April 1, 2014

Paving a Better Road to Success for ALL Children :

New Report Shows Wisconsin in Need of Dramatic Improvement on Racial Equity
As the United States continues to become a more diverse nation, much work remains to be done toward ensuring that all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have the opportunity to thrive. And Wisconsin has more work to do than other states with regard to the success of our children of color. A new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that children of color face immense barriers in nearly every category of well-being, and the status of African-American children in Wisconsin is the worst in the nation.

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, unveils the new Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level. The report uses an index based on 12 indicators to gauge children’s success for each stage of life, from birth to adulthood. The report shows a gaping disparity between Wisconsin’s white children and their nonwhite peers. While Wisconsin had the 10th best index score for white children, we ranked 17th for Latino children, 37th for Asian children, and were ranked dead last for African-American children.

Unfortunately, Casey’s new report further confirms the alarming conclusions that were conveyed last year in WCCF’s own comprehensive statistical and analytic study, entitled Race to Equity, which revealed that black/white disparities in prosperous and progressive Dane County, Wisconsin were among the worst in America. “We hope this national comparative report serves to redouble the growing calls for action to level the playing field for all the children in our state,” said Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF). “Wisconsin is a state that claims to value opportunity and community and fairness. That we are the worst in the nation when it comes to the well-being of our African-American children is unacceptable. We must act with urgency and a long term commitment to change this egregious situation. Surely Wisconsin can do better than this.”

The report shows that the well-being of African-American children in Wisconsin is worse than anywhere else in the nation. Wisconsin’s African-American children not only fare more poorly than African- American kids elsewhere, but they also suffer extreme inequalities when compared to white kids in their own state. And while the disparities are not as egregious for children from other communities of color, they are still very alarming. For example:

  • Seventy percent of Wisconsin’s white children live in households above 200% of the poverty level, while only one-fifth of African American children experience that level of economic security. Meanwhile, approximately one-third of Wisconsin’s Latino and American Indian kids live in households above 200% of the poverty line.
  • White adults, age 25 to 29, are three times as likely to have an associate’s degree or higher than their African American or Latino peers.
  • White children are nearly six times more likely to be proficient in 8th grade math than their black fellow students.

According to Erica Nelson, director of the Council’s racial disparity project, the root causes of Wisconsin’s and America’s racial disparities are many and complex, but there are strategies for addressing them that we know can make a difference. Those include making sure that all families have meaningful paths to employment opportunities and family-supporting incomes; that their children have access to high-quality early education; and that communities are supported with the resources to pursue a two-generation approach that simultaneously invests in low-income parent’s economic security, while enriching development and learning opportunities for their children.

As the Casey report points out, by 2018 children of color will represent a majority of the nation’s children. This fact underscores the urgency of placing greater emphasis on the issue of racial disparity. WCCF’s Race to Equity project (which is also funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation) has begun working to address this issue in Dane County by bringing together stakeholders across the community to confront the magnitude of the problem and intensify emerging and existing efforts to implement promising solutions. WCCF is in the process of expanding the initiative to address the disparity challenges of additional ethnicities and races and hopes to expand the project statewide.

“The dialog about racial equity is underway in Dane County and in Wisconsin,” Taylor said. “But dialog will only get us so far. All of us, from elected officials to scholars to neighborhood activists to parents, must act now to promote a better future for every one of our children. This is not only the right thing morally, it is also the smart thing economically. We cannot afford to miss out on the contributions communities of color make to our neighborhoods, our state, and our nation.”

Read the full report here

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Contact: Bob Jacobson, 608-284-0580, ext. 303