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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

About This Report

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics' primary mission is to enhance data collection and reporting on children and families. America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 provides the Nation with a summary of national indicators of children's well-being and monitors changes in these indicators. The purposes of the report are to improve reporting of Federal data on children and families, make these data available in an easy-to-use, non technical format, stimulate discussions among policymakers and the public, and spur exchanges between the statistical and policy communities.

Conceptual Framework

There are many interrelated aspects of children's well-being, and only selected facets can be included in this report. This report draws on various overarching frameworks to identify seven major domains that characterize the well-being of a child and influence the likelihood that a child will grow to be a well-educated, economically secure, productive, and healthy adult. The seven domains are family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. These domains are interrelated and can have synergistic effects on well-being.

Each section of the report corresponds to one of the seven domains and includes a set of key indicators. These indicators either characterize an aspect of well-being or an influence on well-being.

  • Family and Social Environment includes indicators that characterize children's family lives and social settings.
  • Economic Circumstances includes indicators that are related to children's basic material needs.
  • Health Care includes indicators that characterize access to and use of health services among children.
  • Physical Environment and Safety includes indicators that characterize children's environmental conditions or are related to children's safety.
  • Behavior includes indicators that characterize personal behaviors and their effects.
  • Education includes indicators that characterize how children learn and progress in school.
  • Health includes indicators that characterize physical, mental, and social aspects of children's health.

Structure of the Report

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 presents a set of key indicators that measure important aspects of children's lives and are collected regularly, reliably, and rigorously by Federal agencies. In determining this list of key indicators, the Forum carefully examined the available data and sought input from the Federal policymaking community, foundations, academic researchers, and state and local children's service providers. These indicators were chosen because they meet the following criteria:

  • Easy to understand by broad audiences;
  • Objectively based on reliable data with substantial research connecting them to child well-being;
  • Balanced, so that no single area of children's lives dominates the report;
  • Measured regularly, so that they can be updated and show trends over time; and
  • Representative of large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.

America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013 is designed as a gateway to complement other, more technical or comprehensive reports produced by several Forum agencies. The report provides not only indicators covering seven domains of child well-being, but supplementary information as well. Appendix A, Detailed Tables, presents additional data not discussed in the main body of the report. Appendix B, Data Source Descriptions, describes the sources and surveys used to generate the data.

In addition, this year's report contains a special feature, The Kindergarten Year: Children's Early Academic and Social Skills. This feature highlights data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–2011 (ECLS-K:2011).

Changes to This Year's Report

Wherever possible, we have updated indicators with the latest available data. In addition, the Forum has worked to enhance the report by revising certain indicators to reflect improvements in the availability of data sources, substantive expansion of the indicator, or clarification of the concept being measured. This year's report reflects improved measurement of family reading behaviors with young children, updated lead exposure data based on the most recent CDC reference standard, display of both U.S. and international data for several education indicators, and updated diet quality trend data based on the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Race and Ethnicity and Poverty Status

Most indicators in America's Children include data tabulated by race and ethnicity. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued revised standards for data on race and ethnicity (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg/1997standards.html). The revised standards included two changes that had a direct effect on many of the indicators in this report, particularly with respect to trend analyses. First, the number of racial categories expanded from four (White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander) to five (White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander). Second, respondents were given the opportunity to select multiple races. The standards continued to require data on ethnicity in two categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.

The data sources used in this report implemented these revised standards at different times, and some indicators have more detailed data on race and ethnicity than others. Nevertheless, wherever feasible, we use the 1997 OMB standards in this report. Detailed information on data collection methods for race and ethnicity is provided in footnotes to each table, and additional information can be found in the Data Source Descriptions. The Forum strives to consistently report racial and ethnic data across indicators for clarity and continuity.

Many indicators in this report also include data tabulated by family income and poverty status. All poverty calculations in this report are based on OMB's Statistical Policy Directive 14, the official poverty measurement standard for the United States. A family is considered to be living below the poverty level if its before-tax cash income is below a defined level of need, called a poverty threshold. Poverty thresholds are updated annually and vary based on family size and composition. Wherever feasible, indicators present data by poverty status, using the following categories: families with incomes less than 100 percent of the poverty line, families with incomes between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty line (low income), and families with incomes 200 percent or more of the poverty line (medium and high income). The Forum continues to work on reporting consistent data on family income and poverty status across indicators for clarity and continuity.

Statistical Significance

The Forum continues to strive to demonstrate greater consistency and standardization in the presentation of information in this report. Many estimates in this report are based on a sample of the population and are therefore subject to sampling error. Standard tests of statistical significance have been used to determine whether differences between populations exist at generally accepted levels of confidence or are likely to have occurred by chance. Differences between estimates are tested for statistical significance at either the 0.05 or 0.10 cutoff level, according to agency standards; all differences discussed in the report are statistically significant.

Indicators Needed

The Forum presents child well-being data in need of development at the end of each section of the report. The lists include many important aspects of children's lives for which regular indicators are lacking or are in development, such as early childhood development, long-term poverty, disability, and social connections and engagement.

In some areas, the Forum is exploring ways to collect new measures and improve existing ones. In others, Forum agencies have successfully fielded surveys incorporating some new measures, but data are not yet available on a regular basis for monitoring purposes.

For Further Information

There are several places to obtain more information on the indicators found in this report, including the tables, data source descriptions, and the Forum's Web site.

Tables

Appendix A, Detailed Tables, contains additional details not discussed in the main body of the report. When available, tables show data by the following categories: gender, age, race and Hispanic origin, poverty status, parental education, region of the country, and family structure.

Data Source Descriptions

Appendix B, Data Source Descriptions, contains information on the data used to generate the indicators and how to contact the agency responsible for the data.

It is also important to note that numerous publications of the Federal statistical agencies provide additional details about indicators in this report and on other areas of child well-being. Two such reports include The Condition of Education (http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/coe), published annually by the National Center for Education Statistics and Health, United States (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus.htm), published annually by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Web Site

Finally, the Forum's Web site, http://childstats.gov, contains data tables, links to previous reports, links for ordering reports, and additional information about the Forum.