The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics' primary mission is to enhance the practice of and improve consistency in data collection and reporting on children and families. America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 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 Federal data on children and families and make these data available in an easy-to-use, non-technical format, as well as to stimulate discussions among policymakers and the public and spur exchanges between the statistical and policy communities.
Conceptual Framework for America's Children
There are many interrelated aspects of children's wellbeing, 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 that 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.
As described below, 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. The report does not distinguish between these two types of indicators, nor does it address the relationships between them. Yet all the indicators are important in assessing the well-being of children.
Structure of the Report
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 presents a set of key indicators that measure important aspects of children's lives and are collected regularly, reliably, and rigorously by Federal agencies. The Forum chose these indicators through careful examination of available data. In determining this list of key indicators, the Forum 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:
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011 is designed as a gateway to complement other, more technical or comprehensive reports produced by several Forum agencies. The report not only provides indicators covering seven domains of child well-being, but also includes supplementary information. Appendix A, Detailed Tables, presents tabulated data for each measure and additional details not discussed in the main body of the report. Appendix B, Data Source Descriptions, describes the sources and surveys used to generate the demographic background measures and the indicators.
In addition, this year's report contains a special feature section which offers an opportunity to present additional measures that are not available with sufficient frequency to be considered as regular key indicators or provide more detailed information about a particular topic. The Special Feature for this year's report is Adoption. This feature highlights data from two different surveys conducted by Forum agencies and represents a unique collaboration.
Changes to This Year's Report
Wherever possible, we have updated indicators with the latest available data for America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011. In addition, this year's report includes a new indicator on teen immunizations that will allow us to track newly recommended adolescent vaccines. Two of the figures for the child care indicator are new this year in order to allow us to continue to provide data on this critical aspect of children's lives while one of the existing data source surveys is undergoing a major revision. The Forum has also 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. Specifically, the outdoor air quality data source was updated and the indicator was separated into two (air quality and environmental tobacco smoke), the food security indicator was renamed food insecurity, and an inset figure was added to the education indicator to display 12th-grade mathematics achievement scores by race and ethnicity. The Forum continues to strive to demonstrate greater consistency and standardization in the presentation of information in this report.
Data on 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). These 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. Additionally, the standards continued to require data on ethnicity in two categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.
The data collection systems used in this report implemented these revised standards at different times, and some indicators have more detailed data on race and ethnicity than others. Yet, where feasible, we utilize the 1997 OMB standards for race and ethnicity in this report. Detailed information on data collection methods for race and ethnicity is provided in footnotes at the end of each table, and additional information can be found in the Data Source Descriptions section. 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 the OMB's Statistical Policy Directive 14, which is 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. Detailed information about children's poverty status can be found in the Child Poverty and Family Income indicator (ECON1). In addition, where feasible, other indicators present data by poverty status, utilizing 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.
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 useful places to obtain additional information on each of the indicators found in this report, including the tables, data source descriptions, and a Web site.
For many of the indicators, Appendix A, Detailed Tables, contains additional details not discussed in the main body of the report. When available and feasible to report, 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 and descriptions of the sources and surveys used to generate the indicators, as well as information on how to contact the agency responsible for collecting the data or administering the relevant survey.
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://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.
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. The Web site provides downloadable tables (in Microsoft Excel format) when available, along with additional years of data that cannot all be shown in the printed report. The Web site also provides links to previous America's Children reports (from 1997 to 2010), which are available in PDF format.