Untangling COVID-19’s Impacts on Youth STIs: Why Did New Cases of Some Infections Dip in 2020?

The burden of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) falls disproportionately on young people, in California and across the nation. Fewer than two in every 10 Californians are between ages 15 and 24, yet, for the two most commonly reported STIs—chlamydia and gonorrhea—this age group accounts for five in every 10 and three in every 10 of the state’s cases, respectively.

Rates of Reported Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Infections Among California Youth
Ages 15 to 19: 2000 to 2020

Trend graph showing rates of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea infections per 100,000 California youth ages 15 to 19, from 2000 to 2020.

Disruptions related to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 likely changed youth sexual behaviors and access to sexual health services. Less frequent sexual activity and fewer new sex partners connected with stay-at-home and social-distancing measures may have slowed STI transmission, while delays in routine health screenings and care for symptoms may have allowed untreated infections to spread. Clinic closures, limits on in-person health visits, and redirection of public health resources to COVID-19 also shifted STI screening patterns, as did supply shortages and increased unemployment (and loss of health insurance).

Compared with 2019, reported cases of chlamydia among California youth ages 10 to 19 fell sharply in 2020, from 788 infections per 100,000 youth to 573 per 100,000, echoing national trends. While rates fell in all but one county with data over this period, county-level variation remained wide, ranging from fewer than 250 cases per 100,000 to more than 800 cases per 100,000 in 2020. Most chlamydia infections are asymptomatic and only identified through screening performed during routine preventive care visits. Rates of chlamydia infection were around 3.5 times higher for female youth ages 10 to 19 than for their male counterparts in both 2019 and 2020, statewide and nationally. Untreated chlamydia puts young women at risk for serious negative reproductive health outcomes, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

Reported cases of youth gonorrhea were comparatively stable between 2019 and 2020. Nationally, the rate rose from 229 to 245 infections per 100,000 young people ages 10 to 19—an increase of around 10,000 cases. In California, the change was smaller and differed by gender. Overall, rates fell by less than one case per 100,000 youth, driven by a drop from 165 to 162 cases per 100,000 females, which offset an increase from 99 to 101 cases per 100,000 males. Although many gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic, symptoms can be painful, particularly in men.

An accurate interpretation of 2020 infection reports depends on many factors and considerations, yet chlamydia and gonorrhea, despite being largely preventable and curable, remain extremely common and costly by any measure. Read more about the impacts of COVID-19 on STI surveillance and strategies to better prevent, identify, and treat youth STIs and improve teen sexual health.

KidsData in the News

Fear vs. Fact: Children Are Sexually Abused in Humboldt at Alarming Rates, but Not at Drag Shows or by LGBTQ+ Groups

An article in the North Coast Journal cites figures derived from KidsData’s indicators of reported child maltreatment.


Data Visualization of Structural Racism and Place

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invites proposals from interdisciplinary teams of experts in data, communications, and social change to create data visualizations that contextualize the legacy of structural racism and communicate its impact on place, health, and well-being. Submit your proposal by Friday, June 2.

Children’s Health Resources

Public Housing, Vouchers Open Doors to Better Child Health, New Research Suggests

Children in households that receive federal rental assistance are healthier and miss less school due to illness than those whose households are waiting for help. Still, up to 75% of renters who need federal housing assistance don’t receive it, and common waitlist practices disadvantage families facing the greatest hardships. A new research highlight from PRB discusses policy changes that could promote a more equitable system and lift more families out of poverty.

Fostering Youth Transitions 2023: State and National Data to Drive Foster Care Advocacy

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a new analysis of data from 2006 to 2021 examining how well child welfare systems in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico support teenagers and young adults transitioning out of foster care.

School Enrollment in the United States, 2021

On Thursday, June 8, the U.S. Census Bureau will release a new report detailing school enrollment in 2021 and changes in enrollment patterns from prior years. The report will use statistics from the American Community Survey and examine public, private, and home-school enrollment from preschool through college.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about health care, quality of care for children with special health care needs, and teen sexual health. See links to the latest here.

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Black and Latino Children Experience Multiple Adversities at Disproportionately High Rates

Percentage of Children Ages 0 to 17 With at Least Two Adverse Experiences, by Race/Ethnicity: 2017-2021 

Bar chart showing the estimated share of children ages 0 to 17 in California and the United States with two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), overall and by race/ethnicity, for 2017-2021.

April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with toxic stress that can disrupt healthy development and lead to behavioral, emotional, academic, and health problems throughout life. The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely the negative impacts will be substantial and lasting, especially if the child does not receive buffering supports.

New estimates from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) show that ACEs continue to be common nationwide and in California. Parents and caregivers responding to the NCSH are not asked about their children’s exposure to maltreatment, but the survey provides data about 10 other ACEs such as financial hardship; substance abuse or mental illness in the home; and experiences of violence, racism, or discrimination. NSCH estimates from 2017-2021 show that, from birth until the time of survey, more than 1 in 3 California children (34%) ages 0 to 17 had experienced at least one ACE, more than 1 in 7 (15%) had two or more ACEs, and 1 in 25 (4%) had four ACEs or more.

Among racial/ethnic groups with data, African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino children are most likely to have two or more ACEs, statewide and nationally. When compared with their white peers, rates of exposure to at least two ACEs were more than twice as high for African American/Black children and more than 1.5 times higher for Hispanic/Latino children, according to the latest California estimates.

Strategies to help prevent, interrupt, and mitigate the effects of ACEs include strengthening the social safety net and other supports for families, expanding resilience-building prevention services in communities, and institutionalizing trauma-informed policies and practices across public and private systems. Read more and watch the ACEs video on kidsdata.org.

KidsData in the News

Data, Disparities, and Recognizing High-Risk Situations for Child Abuse

An op-ed by Valley Children’s Healthcare in the Sierra Sun Times cites KidsData on rates of reported child maltreatment by race/ethnicity.


A Collective Perspective to Community Supporting: A Call to Action

The last webinar in the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention’s four-part series, “Shifting From Mandated Reporting to Community Supporting” [PDF], will be held April 26 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT and will include a diverse panel of professionals and providers with differing perspectives on how the shift from mandated reporting to community supporting can be implemented through a collective approach.

Where Are the Kids? Explore Data for Children 18 Years and Under

On April 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT, the U.S. Census Bureau will hold a hands-on workshop focused on exercises to access children’s well-being data using data.census.gov and SAIPE (Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates). Participants in the webinar will practice how to search in different geographies to learn about child demographics and population.

Building Bridges Across the California Ecosystem to Prevent Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

The Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California San Diego will bring together key state stakeholders focused on health, economic, and social inequities on April 28 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT to build bridges with GBV research, practice, policy, and data ecosystems. The forum will be held at the university. Registration is free.

Take Action

Digital Equity and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Planning Workshops

California’s Broadband for All program invites input on the state’s digital equity and BEAD five-year action plans. Make your voice heard and help determine how future federal dollars are allocated to address digital inequities in your community. Regional workshops are being held throughout the state.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about childhood adversity and resilience, disconnected youth, and high school graduation. See links to the latest here.

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April Recognizes Maternal and Child Well-Being With Events and Resources

Maternal Death Among U.S. Black Women

April 11-17. Black Maternal Health Week overlaps with National Minority Health Month and the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights. To mark this important issue, PRB has released a fact sheet, in partnership with Dr. Shalon’s Maternal Action Project and TANK Worldwide, highlighting Black-white disparities in maternal death and severe childbirth complications. Among the findings are that U.S. Black women are over three times more likely to die in pregnancy or postpartum than white women. Ending Black maternal mortality in the United States, researchers say, involves addressing structural racism. Watch the video.

Protecting Black Children’s Health Through Community-Led Healing

April 12 at 12:00 p.m. PT. In honor of Black Maternal Health Week, the Children’s Partnership will host a conversation in which leaders from the California Black Health Network, California Black Women’s Health Project, and UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative will discuss the health and well-being of Black children, systemic inequities and challenges Black children continue to face, data that support the work of transforming outcomes for Black children and youth, protective factors, and community-led healing strategies.

Getting Real About Data and Disproportionality

April 12, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention is hosting a four-part professional webinar series, “Shifting From Mandated Reporting to Community Supporting” [PDF]. In the April 12 session, experts from the California Child Welfare Indicators Project and Chapin Hall will look at racial disproportionality in child welfare involvement in California and the economic conditions that bring many families into the system, often unnecessarily.

For more on the links between family financial security and reports of child maltreatment, see PRB’s “Anti-Poverty Tax Credits Linked to Declines in Reports of Child Neglect, Youth Violence, and Juvenile Convictions.”

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Many Children With Emotional or Behavioral Conditions Do Not Receive Treatment or Counseling

Sound mental health prepares young people to meet the challenges of growing up and becoming productive and engaged adults. Most emotional and behavioral conditions emerge in childhood or young adulthood, and, if not identified and treated, can contribute to negative developmental, educational, and health outcomes throughout life.

Anxiety, behavior problems, and depression are the most common mental health disorders among children in the United States. Often, a child with one of these conditions has another at the same time, multiplying the challenges.

New data collected from parents and caregivers between 2017 and 2021 show that an estimated 12% of California children ages 3-17 had one or more diagnosed mental health conditions—attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety problems, behavioral or conduct problems, or depression—at the time of survey. Just over half of these children (52%) received mental health treatment or counseling in the previous year, while the remainder were reported as either not needing services or not receiving the services they needed. By comparison, nationwide, 17% of children had diagnosed conditions, and a similar share (53%) had received treatment or counseling in the previous year.

Among children with special health care needs (CSHCN)—who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally—the estimated prevalence of mental health conditions is more than three times higher than in the general child population, statewide and nationally.

Even with higher prevalence rates, many CSHCN do not receive mental health treatment. In 2017-2021, 58% of California CSHCN with emotional or behavioral conditions had received mental health services in the previous year, compared with 62% of CSHCN nationwide.

Children With Special Health Care Needs Receiving Mental Health Services in the Previous Year, Among Those With Emotional or Behavioral Conditions: 2017-2021

Pie charts showing, among children with special health care needs in California and the U.S. with emotional or behavioral conditions in 2017-2021, the share who had received mental health treatment or counseling in the previous 12 months.

To ensure that all children and their families receive the mental health care they need, regardless of special needs status, region, health insurance coverage, socioeconomics, race/ethnicity, or other factors, policymakers and other leaders can promote cross-sector strategies to improve timely access to adequate screenings and appropriate specialty providers. Decisionmakers should also prioritize coordinated, continuous care and education and assistance in navigating complex service systems, particularly for families with multiple needs.

Read more about children’s emotional health, characteristics of children with special needs, and access to services for children with special needs.

KidsData in the News

Former Bay Area Congresswoman Launches Foundation to Help Pull Women, Children Out of Poverty

Using the California Poverty Measure, an ABC7 News story cited KidsData on the number of San Mateo County children living in poverty.


Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Youth Through Health Care System Transformation

The National Academies Committee on Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Youth Through Health Care System Transformation—tasked with conducting a consensus study to examine promising mechanisms and levers for innovations that can be implemented in the health care system to improve the health and well-being of children and youth—will hold its second meeting March 29-30. Register to attend public sessions virtually.

Expanded SNAP Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons Learned

The Institute for Research on Poverty will hold a webinar on April 5 examining the role of food assistance in the U.S. social safety net, how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was adjusted to respond to public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, assessments of those interventions, and how policymakers and practitioners can use lessons learned to improve the program’s efficacy and impact. Register to participate.

Good News

Family Dinner Routine More Common in Hispanic and Immigrant Families

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2021, 87% of U.S. parents ate dinner with their children at least five days a week, up from 84% in 2019—a positive change likely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among Hispanic and foreign-born parents, proportions were even higher, at 90% and 89%, respectively.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about access to services for children with special health care needs, characteristics of children with special needs, children’s emotional health, and immunizations. See links to the latest here.

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California Families Face a Child Care Crunch (Part 2): A Closer Look at Availability and Cost

Availability of Licensed Child Care Spaces for California Children Ages 0 to 12
With Working Parents: 2021

Pie chart showing, among California children ages 0-12 with parents in the labor force, the share with and without an available licensed child care space in 2021.

The second in our two-part series on child care and early education explores program availability, access, and cost across California communities.

Between 2019 and 2021, California lost more than 1,100 licensed child care facilities and nearly 19,000 licensed spaces—more spaces than the total number of children in Mendocino or 20 other California counties.

KidsData analyzed 2021 child care supply data in conjunction with labor force estimates and found that licensed spaces were available for around one in four children ages 0 to 12 with working parents, statewide. This figure did not drop relative to 2019, despite the overall decline in licensed child care supply. At the local level, wide variation exists in access to licensed child care, with availability in some counties lower than one space for every seven children in 2021.

Even when spaces are available, the cost can be prohibitive for many families. In 2021, median county-level costs for full-time licensed infant care ranged from $13,600 to $22,900 annually in child care centers and from $10,100 to $19,700 in family child care homes. Care for children ages 2 to 5 was less expensive, but still as high as $19,600 in centers and $18,000 in child care homes.

Enrollment in pre-primary education programs, which provide alternatives to child care for children of preschool or kindergarten age, declined in tandem with licensed child care supply. In 2021, an estimated 51% of California children ages 3 to 5 were enrolled in preschool or kindergarten, down from pre-pandemic levels of more than 60%. Some regions face challenges across multiple early childhood systems—the Inland Empire counties of Riverside and San Bernardino had preschool or kindergarten enrollment rates lower than 42%, and licensed child care availability lower than 15%, in 2021.

Read more about strategies to build a comprehensive, high-quality early care and education system that is accessible and affordable for all families.

KidsData in the News

Americans Are Having Fewer Children. Is That a Problem?

KidsData’s Beth Jarosz is featured in an LX News piece on the economic and social implications of declining U.S. birth rates.

Children’s Health Resources

New Childcare Data Shows Prices Are Untenable for Families

Child care consumes a large share of family income among those who pay for services—between 8% and 19.3% of median family income per child—according to a U.S. Department of Labor blog.

New Reports Describe California’s Early Intervention System for Infants and Toddlers

The California Budget and Policy Center, supported by First 5 Center for Children’s Policy, recently released reports on early intervention services available through California’s Early Start program, and recommendations for how the program can better support young children with disabilities or developmental delays.


Elevate Youth California Supporting Capacity Building for Community Organizations

Grants up to $400,000 are available in support of community-based programs and practices for substance use disorder prevention among youth ages 12 to 26. Applications are due February 20.

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California Families Face a Child Care Crunch (Part 1): Guest commentary by Gemma DiMatteo

Supply of Child Care Spaces in Licensed Facilities: 2019, 2021

Table showing the number of licensed child care spaces in California child care centers and family child care homes in 2019 and 2021.

California’s licensed child care supply continues to decline, although the decrease was less than expected during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely due to public supports implemented in 2020 and 2021.

Guest author Gemma DiMatteo.

In this first part of a two-part series on child care and early education, guest author Gemma DiMatteo, research director at the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, discusses recent key findings about the state’s licensed child care system.

The California Child Care Resource & Referral Network (“the Network”) has released its 2021 California Child Care Portfolio, with county- and state-level data available through KidsData.org and the Network’s data tool.

New data show licensed child care supply declined

Compared with 2019, data from 2021 show a continued decrease in the state’s licensed child care supply, with losses of:

The pandemic could have had a much greater impact on licensed child care supply statewide; however, significant public investment in supporting child care programs likely prevented many from closing. Historically, California has seen a trend of greater decline in family child care home spaces than child care center spaces, but the pandemic seems to have shifted this trend, with a greater decline in center spaces. This is likely due to group size restrictions making it unfeasible to continue operating a center.

There was regional variation in how supply changed

There was substantial variation across counties and regions in the change of licensed child care supply. The northern region of the state saw the biggest decline in spaces (-5%), followed by the southern region (-3%), while the Central Valley and Bay Area experienced changes (negative and positive, respectively) of 1% or less.

Policy implications

These modest declines in child care supply are not nearly as steep as many anticipated with the pandemic. While the reasons for this require further study, it’s clear that child care received a lot of attention and financial support in 2020 and 2021, and that likely played a large role in preventing a steeper decline, demonstrating that increased public investment creates a more stable child care system for families.

Looking beyond one-time investments and expiring policy changes, the Network recommends the following actions be considered if California’s child care system is to be sustained and fortified:

  • Increasing pay for all child care workers.
  • Eliminating, to the extent of the law, the share of subsidized child care costs families are required to pay.
  • Codifying a system of payment for providers of subsidized care based on enrollment.

Visit the Network’s website for more policy ideas and child care resources.

In Part 2 of this series, out in February, we’ll examine the gap between child care demand and availability, families’ barriers to access (including cost), and how these vary across the state. Stay tuned.

KidsData in the News

Child Care Is Crucial to Families and the Economy. California Should Treat It That Way

An editorial in the Sacramento Bee cites KidsData and the Network for child care costs and spaces data.

Children’s Health Resource

Family-Focused Interventions to Prevent Substance Use Disorders in Adolescence

Proceedings from a National Academies workshop explore effective family-focused interventions in primary care settings for preventing substance use disorders, along with efforts to incorporate them into state health care policies.


ACEs Aware Implementation With Intention

This webinar series is designed to help California clinics implement adverse childhood experience (ACE) screening and response. Experts will provide practical, step-by-step guidance, as well as resources and tools to help clinics on their path toward ACE screening implementation.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about breastfeeding and early care and education. See links to the latest here.

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A Bright Year, a Brighter Future

Children jumping joyfully at the beach

It’s been an exciting and productive first full year in our new home at PRB! We want to thank our partners and all of you who harness the power of data to improve the health and well-being of children and families across our state. While our operations have changed, our mission remains the same—to be your leading resource for data to build a better future for our kids.

2022 highlights:

  • In partnership with the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, we released a fourth wave of exclusive data on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including 55 new indicators on California children’s mental health, health care use, telehealth access, vaccinations, and more. If you missed our latest webinar, access the slides and recording.
  • Our data and expertise were featured on CNN, public radio’s “Here and Now,” and in dozens of local news outlets, advancing the conversation on demographics, poverty, homelessness, child care, COVID-19, mental health, family violence, the social safety net, and more.

Behind the scenes, we’re preparing to make the shift from our current foundation funding model to relying more on support from people like you. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to KidsData today. Together, we can build a brighter 2023—and beyond.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about dental care and family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. See links to the latest here.

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Pandemic Remains a Source of Disruption and Stress, Particularly for Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs

Photo of a kindergarten teacher sitting with students in a circle on the floor. They are all wearing masks. The teacher is holding a tablet and a boy is looking at it while clapping his hands.

New data on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in California suggest that children with special health care needs (CSHCN) continue to face significant COVID-19-related challenges nearly three years into the pandemic. As students return to in-person classes, the rollback of public health orders has heightened safety concerns among caregivers, and many still fear their children are being left behind academically.

Despite suggestions that life has returned to “normal,” in June one-third of parents and caregivers statewide (33%) reported feelings of nervousness or stress always or most of the time in the previous month—up from 29% in July 2021. Nearly half (45%) said their household finances were negatively impacted since the start of the pandemic, up from less than one-third (32%) a year earlier. And more than half (58%) said they were worried for the safety of their children since public health measures, like masking mandates, relaxed. Rates of concern were even higher in households with CSHCN.

Among households with CSHCN, parents and caregivers were worried about their children’s mental health, even as they said their children were more likely to receive care. In June, 54% of CSHCN caregivers said they were moderately or extremely concerned about the mental health of their oldest child in the previous month, down from 62% the previous July, but considerably higher than the estimate for caregivers in households without CSHCN (28%).

Every effort should be made to ensure that all families have the support they need to recover fully from the COVID-19 pandemic and meet their physical, emotional, educational, and material needs consistently. Read more about policy and program options to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and promote child and family health and well-being.

Funding for KidsData.org’s new information on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic is provided by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.


To learn about these new data, join us for “How Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs Are Coping in the ‘New Normal’,” a webinar hosted by PRB and sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT.

Children’s Health Resource

Supporting Children With Disabilities: Lessons From the Pandemic

Proceedings from a June 2022 National Academies workshop describe policies and practices that could improve the system of care for children with disabilities as well as improve access to services for underserved and marginalized populations.

KidsData in the News

The Math Behind the Poverty Line: Researcher Says Calculations Don’t Account for High Housing Costs

In an interview with public radio’s “Here and Now,” KidsData Acting Director Beth Jarosz discusses who is most impacted by inflation and the rising cost of living, and what an outdated poverty measure means in the United States today.

Good News

San Francisco’s New Department of Early Childhood Wants to Make It Easier for Families to Get Subsidized Child Care

Recent changes in San Francisco and across the state are simplifying the process of finding publicly funded child care and early education services.

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Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: New Data Show Drop-Off in Screening

Number of California Young People Ages 0 to 20 Screened for Lead Poisoning,
by Blood Lead Level, 2010-2020

Trend graph showing blood lead levels among California children and young adults ages 0 to 20 screened for lead poisoning between 2010 and 2020.

To protect children from lead poisoning, California must increase childhood

California recently declared October Children’s Environmental Health Month, aiming to expand awareness and action around environmental health hazards to children. The last week of October also marks International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead poisoning is the most common environmental illness among kids in California, with even minimal exposure to the heavy metal posing serious long-term risks to young people statewide.

There is no known safe level of lead exposure.

Screening is critical because lead exposure usually does not result in obvious symptoms and often goes undetected. Buildup of lead in the body, even at low levels, can cause lifelong physical, neurological, cognitive, and behavioral problems, and high levels of blood lead can be fatal.

More lead exposure screening is urgently needed.

New data reveal that the number of California youth screened for lead poisoning has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2020, the number of blood lead tests for young people ages 0-20 was nearly 50% lower than in 2010. While COVID-19 disruptions help explain a sharp 2020 drop-off compared with 2019 (nearly 30%), the trend reveals that falling screening rates have been a problem in California for at least the last decade.

What do blood lead levels mean?

As of 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends public health action for children recording blood lead levels (BLLs) of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or higher. At present, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has a higher threshold for services (4.5 mcg/dL) but plans to adopt the CDC’s new recommendations. In California, young people with two BLL results at 9.5 mcg/dL or above (or a single result at 14.5 mcg/dL or above) are eligible for comprehensive case management support, including public health nursing services, home inspection, and environmental investigation.

Due to federal and state regulations, the vast majority of young people tested in California are under age 6 (92% in 2020). In 2020, 1.2% of this group (4,130 kids) recorded BLLs of 4.5 mcg/dL or higher. Among ages 6 to 20, 2.3% had BLLs between 4.5 and 9.49 mcg/dL, while 0.5% had levels at 9.5 mcg/dL or above. Altogether, this means there were at least 4,930 young people statewide, most under age 6, in need of public health services for lead exposure.

But without comprehensive testing, the true scope of the problem remains unknown.

All children are at risk, some disproportionately so.

Lead exposure usually occurs through contact with contaminated paint, water, dust, or soil. Children under age 6 are the most vulnerable, as lead is easily absorbed by their developing nervous systems. They are also more likely to be exposed to lead through playing on the ground or hand-mouth contact.

Risk of lead exposure is widespread across communities in California. Analysis by CDPH found that more than 95% of California neighborhoods (census tracts) have at least one risk factor for childhood lead exposure, such as being close to a freeway or having a large share of housing built before 1978. And some communities face multiple risks—10% of neighborhoods have five or more risk factors. Because of these varying risk levels, exposure rates vary widely. Among counties with data in 2020, the percentage of young people with BLLs at or above 4.5 mcg/dL ranged from 0.5% to nearly 5% of those tested.

In addition to differences by location, disparities exist across demographic groups. Inequities in exposure to environmental hazards such as lead have persisted for years, with children of color and those in low-income families facing disproportionate risks.

All children have a right to live, play, and go to school in clean, safe environments. Policymakers, public agencies, schools, health care providers, funders, community organizations, and others—can and should do much more to prevent children’s exposure to lead, increase screening efforts, and improve responses for those who are exposed. Read more about strategies for action.


Join us for “How Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs Are Coping in the ‘New Normal’,” a webinar hosted by PRB and sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT.

Take Action

Census Bureau Invites Public Input on Designing 2030 Census

The decennial census is the cornerstone of data-driven government policymaking, voter representation, and social analysis for a decade. The U.S. Census Bureau is looking for ways to improve the 2030 Census through strategies for contacting and providing support to the public, motivating everyone to respond, and using new technology and data sources. Submit your thoughts by Nov. 15.

Children’s Health Resource

LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults Are Coming Out Into a Polarized Environment—and Finding Valuable School and Community Support

Calling out the vulnerability and discrimination LGBTQ youth face can be a starting point for adults and institutions that support youth—and youth themselves—to act for change, according to a new PRB article.

KidsData in the News

A CapRadio story on child care uncertainty among Black families cited KidsData on child care costs and availability.

An article in The Epoch Times (published in Chinese) about youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic cited KidsData on the ratio of students to school psychologists in Sacramento County.

A UCI News report on the formation of a community alliance to advance University of California, Irvine as a Latino-thriving institution cited KidsData on California’s K-12 student demographics.


Better Life Lab’s Child Care Innovation Reporting Grants

The Better Life Lab is commissioning a series of reported, data- and character-driven written, video, and/or graphic stories and illustrations that highlight innovations within the child care field. Pitches will be considered and stories commissioned on a rolling basis through spring 2023.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about asthma and lead poisoning. See links to the latest here.

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Webinar: How Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs Are Coping in the “New Normal”

Join us on Tuesday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT for How Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs Are Coping in the “New Normal,” a webinar highlighting new data on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) have faced significant challenges over the course of the pandemic. In California, their experiences—from caregiver stress to concerns about emotional and mental health—were captured in four surveys from 2020 to 2022. Speakers will highlight key findings, demonstrate how to access the data, share insights on the pandemic’s impact on families of CSHCN, and suggest opportunities for positive change.

Register here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with instructions for joining the webinar.


Beth Jarosz, Acting Director, KidsData
Beth is a program director at PRB, where she manages California-based projects, including KidsData. She has more than 20 years of experience in neighborhood-level data for decision-making across a wide variety of topics ranging from child health to housing. She lives in San Diego County.

Lilian Ansari, Family Advocate
After earning her master’s degree in psychology, Lilian spent nearly 20 years working with various nonprofits and public schools. For the past 15 years, she has advocated for the needs of her own children as well as others. She currently serves as the vice president of the board of directors at Regional Center of the East Bay. Originally from Iran, she now lives in the East Bay with her family.

If you have questions, please email kidsdata@prb.org.

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