2024 Race for Results report identifies gaps in child well-being that persist across race and ethnicity, caused by policy choices, disinvestment in services for young people
A new national report out Jan. 10 shows that child well-being outcomes for Oklahoma’s children of color are generally worse than their national peers with index scores below the national average.
However, those results are in the context of a nationwide failure to equip all children to succeed, with policy choices and lack of support for families resulting in particularly dire outcomes for Black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native. These policy choices have been especially acute in Oklahoma due to state lawmakers disinvesting in the services that help our children thrive.
“The latest Race for Results report arrives at a timely moment when many elected officials are minimizing the importance of programs and services that create and foster opportunities for Oklahomans who for too long have been underserved,” said Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which is Oklahoma’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
“The report really lays bare the need for Oklahoma to better equip Oklahoma children and families to succeed,” she said. “Oklahomans — and especially our elected officials — cannot sit idly by and accept these results. We have a moral imperative to deliver targeted investments that improve outcomes and begin to reverse historical imbalances seen among racial and ethnic categories.”
The Race for Results index standardizes scores across 12 indicators that represent well-being milestones from cradle to career, converting them into a scale ranging from 0 to 1,000 — with higher scores indicating better outcomes. This scale is designed to make it easy to compare and see differences across states and racial and ethnic groups.
Indicators are grouped into four areas: early childhood, education and early work experiences, family resources and neighborhood context. While Oklahoma had data available for all racial and ethnic categories, some states were not included in the index scores due to unavailable data.
A summary of key outcomes for Oklahoma children include:
- Index scores in Oklahoma ranged from 372 for Hispanic/Latino children to 653 for Asian and Pacific Islanders.
- The relative rankings for Oklahoma index scores among all states were: American Indian/Alaska Native, 19th out of 31 states; Black, 30th out of 46 states; Asian/Pacific Islander, 39th out of 45 states; white, 48th; and Hispanic/Latino and children of two or more races were both ranked 49th out of 50 states.
- Black children in Oklahoma ranked 30th among 46 states with available data, but their index score of 380 was the second lowest among all of Oklahoma’s racial and ethnic categories.
- The only group of Oklahoma children who had index scores that exceeded the national average for their peers was American Indian/Alaska Natives, who had an index score of 471 compared to 418 nationally. Even then, the index score for Oklahoma children in this category was lower than scores for white children in any state.
- The index score for white children in Oklahoma was 589, but this was the nation’s third lowest among white children behind Kentucky and West Virginia.
On eight of the 12 indicators, Oklahoma scored in the bottom 10 of all states for all children. Those categories and their rankings include:
- percentage of children living in low poverty areas (40th),
- percentage of children living above 200 percent of the federal poverty level (46th),
- percentage of young adults in school or working (41st),
- percentage of young adults with an associate’s degree or higher (46th),
- percentage of women who delay childbearing until adulthood (42nd),
- percentage of high school students graduating on time (47th),
- percentage of 8th graders proficient in math (48th), and
- percentage of 4th graders reading proficiency (48th).
Oklahoma ranked 30th for babies born at normal birth rate, 32nd in percentage of children who live in two-parent households and 39th in percentage of children who live with a householder who has at least a high school degree.
Oklahoma scored in the top half of states in only one indicator: 17th in percentage of children enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten.
Nationally, Asian and Pacific Islander children have the highest index score at 771, followed by white children at 697 and children of two or more races at 612. Scores for Latino (452), American Indian or Alaska Native (418) and Black children (386) are considerably lower. Calculations of the index for all 50 states show that experiences vary widely depending on where a child lives, from a high of 877 for Asian and Pacific Islander children in New Jersey to a low of 180 for American Indian or Alaska Native children in South Dakota.
Young people are missing critical developmental milestones as a direct result of choices to fail to invest in policies, programs and services that support children, especially in under-resourced communities and communities of color.
The Casey Foundation introduced the Race for Results index in a 2014 report and updated it in 2017. This third edition of the report carries data from the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that demonstrate both the urgency of ensuring all children can thrive and the promise of policy prescriptions for achieving that goal. Race for Results contends that young people are missing critical developmental milestones as a direct result of choices to not invest in policies, programs and services that support children, especially in under-resourced communities and communities of color.
The Casey Foundation makes several recommendations in Race for Results toward improving outcomes for all children:
- Congress should expand the federal child tax credit. The temporary, pandemic-era expansion of the CTC lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty, with the share of kids in poverty falling to 5.2% in 2021, the lowest rate on record.
- States and Congress should expand the earned income tax credit.
- Lawmakers should consider baby bonds and children’s savings accounts — programs that contribute public funds to dedicated accounts to help families save for their children’s future.
- Policymakers must create targeted programs and policies that can close well-being gaps for young people of color, because universal policies are important but insufficient for continued progress.
For the coming Oklahoma Legislative session, OK Policy is recommending lawmakers should prioritize actions to level the playing field for Oklahoma kids. This includes:
- Resisting an expansion of Oklahoma’s tax credit voucher program that subsidizes private school tuition for wealthy children at the expense of public education.
- Expanding the Sales Tax Relief Credit and offering taxpayers a one-time rebate to ease financial strain on Oklahoma households without risking funding for the state’s core services.
- Opposing poorly targeted tax cuts that will further erode core services while giving the largest tax breaks to the wealthiest Oklahomans.
- Enacting common-sense protections for Oklahoma renters, including anti-retaliation measures that will help ensure families can safely stay in their homes.
“If Oklahoma lawmakers are serious about ensuring our children are college- and career-ready, they should make targeted investments that help build Oklahoma into the state we know it can be. If lawmakers continue with broadly targeted actions, this will result in continued underinvestment in the children who most need it,” OK Policy’s Kantz said.
The 2024 Race for Results report is available at http://www.aecf.org.
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ABOUT THE ANNIE E. CASEY FOUNDATION
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s young people by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. Race for Results® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
ABOUT THE OKLAHOMA POLICY INSTITUTE
The Oklahoma Policy Institute seeks to create a more equitable Oklahoma through its nonpartisan policy research, analysis, and advocacy. OK Policy curates critical conversations through data-driven research and outreach regarding state policy so that every Oklahoman has equitable opportunities to thrive. OK Policy is the KIDS COUNT affiliate for Oklahoma. Learn more at OKPolicy.org.