High Hawaii child health rating offset by poor economic wellbeing

Hawaii ranks sixth in the nation for child health, but the state’s child economic well-being ranking plummeted from 25th to 44th in just one year, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The state ranked 26th overall for child well being, a drop from 17th in the nation last year. 

 

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The study measured child well-being with 16 indicators across four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. However, the study does not yet reflect additional negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network, says state leaders should take action now.

“By revealing that Hawai‘i’s keiki were falling behind the rest of the nation even before the pandemic, the newest KIDS COUNT Data Book should be a warning bell to everyone who cares about our state’s children. Policymakers and community leaders must act boldly to prevent our children’s well-being from deteriorating further.”

Hawaii has performed worse over time on two of the four indicators the study used to measure child health. Child and teen deaths per 100,000 increased from 21 in 2010 to 24 in 2019. Hawaii had a total of 1,410 low birth-weight babies in 2019, a 0.1 percent increase from 2010.

Regarding the state’s economic well-being, the study estimated 36,000 children, or 12 percent, lived in poverty in 2019. Hawaii ranks well nationally in child poverty, but Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network says this is most likely because the official poverty line does not factor in the high cost of living in the state. 

Although the study does not reflect the effect of the pandemic, additional survey data from the Census Bureau shows that in March 2021, 61 percent of Hawaii households with children reported losing employment income since the start of the pandemic. That number is disproportionately higher than the national average of 49 percent. To address the economic well-being gap, Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network recommends a range of solutions. 

“Our state’s leaders should prioritize investing in children, families and communities to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. These priorities include boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding early learning programs, enacting paid family and sick leave and adopting student-centered budgeting.”