Data Show Children of Color Are Systematically Denied Equitable Opportunities to Thrive

Number of California Students per 1,000 Suspended From School, by Race/Ethnicity,

Bar chart displays the number of California students per 1,000 suspended from school, by race and ethnicity, for the schools years 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Note: Data are for the school years 2018-19 and 2019-20.

For many decades, state and national data have shown that communities of color—particularly African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children and families—generally experience disproportionately poor outcomes across multiple domains of well-being. These domains include family economics, safety, school outcomes and experiences, mental and physical health, access to services, and more. KidsData now brings together data on these domains in a page dedicated to racial and ethnic equity to facilitate researchers, policymakers, and advocates’ easy access to the evidence.

Many leaders and organizations are working hard to improve outcomes for young people of color and some gaps have narrowed, but these inequities remain an urgent public health concern nationwide.

Why Do Racial/Ethnic Inequities Persist?

The social, economic, and environmental conditions that young people experience profoundly influence their health and well-being across the life course. Long-standing disparate outcomes for children and youth of color are a consequence of the poorer conditions they generally experience. Unequal conditions in turn reflect unequal distribution of power and resources among racial and ethnic groups, driven by structural racism and discriminatory practices embedded in our policies, institutions, and culture.

Data Drive Awareness and Action

Recognizing the importance of tracking disparities and supporting action to eliminate them, KidsData provides more than 150 measures broken down by race/ethnicity, along with explanatory context, evidence-based policy and program suggestions to help counteract disadvantage, and links to additional resources. We encourage you to put these data to work.

Spotlights From the Data:

  • African American/Black children are more likely than their white counterparts to have two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), according to a national survey from 2016 to 2020. In California, the share of African American/Black children with at least two ACEs is around double that of white children.
  • In California in 2018-2020, more than 1 in 5 African American/Black and Hispanic/Latino children lived on income below the Supplemental Poverty Measure threshold, compared with fewer than 1 in 12 of their white and multiracial peers.
  • Asian youth in California were more likely to have been bullied or harassed at school at least once in the previous year because of their race/ethnicity or national origin compared with students of other backgrounds, according to 2017-2019 data for grades 7, 9, 11, and non-traditional programs. Estimates of youth bullied often (four or more times) in the previous year due to race/ethnicity were highest for Asian and African American/Black students, at 9%.
  • Around 25% of Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native youth had high levels of developmental supports at school, compared with at least 30% for Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, African American/Black, and white students in grades 7, 9, and 11, and non-traditional programs in 2017-2019.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native youth were most likely to have been afraid of getting beaten up at school in the previous year, while African American/Black youth were most likely to feel unsafe or very unsafe at school, when compared with youth in other racial/ethnic groups in 2017-2019.
  • In 2021, rates of reading proficiency among California students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 were 60% or higher for Asian, Filipino, white, and multiracial students, and lower than 45% for African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander groups.
  • In California’s high school graduating class of 2020, the percentages of African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native students not completing high school (13% and 14%, respectively) were nearly double that for white students (7%) and more than three times that for Asian and Filipino students (4%).
  • In California, 8% of American Indian/Alaska Native children did not have health insurance coverage in 2018—more than twice the estimate for children in other racial/ethnic groups. The uninsured estimate for this population nationwide was even higher, at 13%.
  • California and U.S. infants born to African American/Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander mothers have the lowest rates of timely prenatal care. The greatest burden of adverse birth outcomes, such as low birthweight and infant mortality, typically is experienced by African American/Black families.
  • The juvenile felony arrest rate for African American/Black youth in California has dropped dramatically in recent decades; yet, as of 2020, it remains almost 5 times higher than the arrest rate for Hispanic/Latino youth, and nearly 10 times that for white youth.
  • In 2017-2019, around one in five American Indian/Alaska Native, multiracial, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander youth in California seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year, a larger share than their grade 9, 11, and non-traditional peers in other racial/ethnic groups.
  • African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children and young adults consistently have higher death rates than young people in other racial/ethnic groups, statewide and nationally. The rate of death due to firearms among California African American/Black youth in 2020 (25 per 100,000) was more than 4 times the rate for Hispanic/Latino youth, more than 7 times the rate for white youth, and over 16 times the rate for Asian youth.
How Can We Improve Outcomes for Young People of Color?

Policymakers and stakeholders in multiple sectors have a role in addressing disparities and ensuring that all children and families, regardless of race or ethnicity, have equitable opportunities to thrive. Eliminating these inequities will require increased investments in evidence-based policies and system-level changes. Examples include:

  • Ensure affordable, high-quality child care, health care, and health insurance are available to all families.
  • Increase access to affordable, culturally appropriate mental health care.
  • Provide safe, effective pre-K-12 schools with adequate support services in communities of color.
  • Continue to reform school disciplinary practices and the juvenile justice system to emphasize positive youth outcomes.

Promoting equity for children and families of color, including immigrant families, not only will improve children’s lives in the short-term but also can strengthen the next generation, creating significant, positive social and economic impacts for society. Use KidsData’s new racial and ethnic equity page to identify disparities and explore policy solutions.

Call for Input on Policies Contributing to Racial/Ethnic Health Inequities

A new National Academies committee is seeking input on federal policies that contribute to racial/ethnic health inequities and potential solutions, including lived experiences navigating federal programs and systems. Learn more and share your feedback.

KidsData in the News

Interact Clubs to Hold Mental Health Awareness Walk

A Tehachapi News story on youth mental health cited KidsData on youth suicide rates in Kern County.

Feeding America Riverside-San Bernardino Receives $60K Grant

A Patch article about a new grant to support nutrition programs cited KidsData on the share of students who participate in free and reduced-price school program meals.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about prenatal care. See links to the latest here.

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Webinar: Prevalence, Disparities, and Impacts of Child Maltreatment-Related Injuries During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Join us Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. PT for “Child Maltreatment-Related Injuries During the COVID-19 Pandemic in California,” a webinar hosted by the California Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative and KidsData.

This webinar will highlight data on non-fatal child abuse and neglect injuries treated in California emergency departments and hospitals from 2016 to 2020. Presenters from EfC and KidsData will describe the frequency, severity, and demographics of child maltreatment-related injuries before and during the pandemic; show how to access the data; and share strategies and resources to support service providers, community coalitions, and others in their efforts to prevent child maltreatment and adverse childhood experiences.

Register now for the “Child Maltreatment-Related Injuries During the COVID-19 Pandemic in California” webinar. Upon registration, a calendar invitation with Zoom information will be emailed to you. If you have questions, please email [email protected].

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High Youth Suicide Rates Can Be Reduced With Mental Health Care

Trend graph of U.S. and California youth suicide rates from 1999-2001 to 2018-2020.

Tragically, 527 California young people ages 5 to 24 took their own lives in 2020, devastating family and friends. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24 statewide and nationally, behind only unintentional injuries and homicide.

In the decade between 2009 and 2019, youth suicides increased dramatically—three-year rates jumped more than 27% for California youth ages 15 to 24 and more than 44% for youth nationwide. In 2018-2020, however—for the first time since 2007-2009—neither the California nor U.S. rate increased. In California, this change in trend was driven by a drop in suicides among young adults ages 20 to 24.

These flattening trends may be a promising sign of future decline, but it is too soon to know. At the same time, suicides among children ages 5 to 14 are trending in the wrong direction: In California, the number of suicides in this age group doubled between 2019 and 2020, from 27 to 54.

How can we reach a young person before a suicide occurs?

Suicides can be prevented with timely, high-quality mental health care, but many children and youth are not receiving needed treatment that could prevent emotional health issues from escalating to the level of self-harm or suicide.

Nurturing, stable relationships and environments also can help prevent and mitigate youth emotional health problems.

Accessing Mental Health Care Is a Critical Part of the Problem

More than one in nine California children ages 3 to 17 had anxiety, depression, conduct problems, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to 2016-2020 estimates. Among these children, only about half (52%) received mental health treatment or counseling in the previous year—a figure similar to the national estimate. Most youth of color who need mental health services do not receive them, pointing to serious inequities in access to care, as research has shown.

Some youth and families with mental or behavioral health challenges choose not to seek treatment, but many who do face barriers to access such as difficulty finding available providers or specialists, cost, health insurance limitations, challenges with quality of care (for instance, lack of linguistic or cultural competence), and transportation.

To prevent youth suicides, it is critical that all young people and their families have access to high-quality, affordable, professional help for anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, substance misuse, and other emotional and behavioral health issues.

Which Youth Are Most at Risk of Suicide?

Some populations are at higher risk of committing suicide:

  • Boys and young men are far more likely to die by suicide than their female counterparts. In 2020, males accounted for 75% of suicides among California youth ages 15 to 24, and 80% of youth suicides nationwide.
  • Among those ages 15 to 24, a majority of suicides occur among young adults ages 20 to 24, who accounted for 63% of youth suicides in 2020, statewide and nationally.
  • Nationally, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have the highest suicide rates by far, compared with their peers in other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Additional groups at high risk for suicide include LGBTQ youth and those who are unhoused, in the child welfare or justice systems, bereaved by suicide, and experiencing mental illness, disabilities, or substance use disorders.

What Will It Take to Reverse Youth Suicide Trends?

For many years now, mental health professionals, advocates, and other leaders have been calling attention to the youth mental health crisis, and while the recent leveling off in state and U.S. youth suicide rates is certainly hopeful, young people are continuing to suffer and take their own lives at distressingly high rates. As those who’ve been working in this field know, we can and must collaborate across sectors to give these issues higher priority, provide long-term commitments with adequate funding, set effective policies, and focus on equity.

Here are some steps that can be taken now:

  • If you or someone you know needs help urgently, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or visit
  • Help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, encourage help-seeking, and promote education about warning signs and how to respond to people in need.
  • Support schools in their efforts to create positive school climates, teach social-emotional skills, offer school-based mental health services, and implement effective suicide prevention policies.
  • Support community efforts to provide youth with connections to caring adults and access to safe, positive activities, such as quality mentoring and after-school programs.
  • Empower youth as partners in local, state, and national mental health initiatives.
  • Support training for anyone who works directly with youth to recognize the signs of suicidal behavior, respond effectively, and help connect youth with appropriate resources.
  • Help expand the workforce of qualified mental health professionals, especially in underserved communities.
  • Help build a system in which all youth and families have access to a range of support services and high-quality, affordable mental health care with adequate insurance coverage.
  • Advocate for health care systems change to support youth mental health and suicide prevention.
  • Promote strategies to reduce access to lethal means such as firearms. In 2020, more than half (52%) of U.S. youth suicides were by firearm.

Read more about strategies to prevent youth suicide and promote positive mental health, and access related resources.

KidsData in the News

KidsData Acting Director Beth Jarosz is cited in India Post, K News Atlanta, El Observador, Người Việt, Península 360 Press, and World Journal articles discussing national and state-level trends in youth suicide and prevalence of childhood behavioral and mental health conditions.

Monterey County: Ballot Initiative Aims to Improve Child Care, Preschool Services

A Monterey Herald story on the Safe, Affordable Quality Child Care Act—a ballot initiative that would provide more than $55 million in funding over 10 years to support local child care and preschool programs in Monterey County—cited KidsData on child population and licensed child care spaces.

Children’s Health Resource

More Sleep Could Improve Many U.S. Teenagers’ Mental Health

California now requires most high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to support students’ well-being and safety. A new research highlight from PRB explains why that’s important.


Recently Released Data

We recently released data about demographics and youth suicide and self-inflicted injury.

See links to the latest here.

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Widespread Childhood Adversity Threatens the Long-Term Health of Adults and the Children Who Live With Them

Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences Among California Adults Living in Households With Children, 2013-2019

Pie chart showing the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences among California adults living in households with children in 2013-2019

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)—such as abuse, exposure to domestic violence, divorce of parents, and growing up with substance abuse or mental illness at home—can disrupt a child’s development and have lifelong negative consequences. Unfortunately, these experiences are all too common.

In California, two-thirds of adults living in households with children had at least one adverse experience in their childhood. Of those, more than a quarter had at least four ACEs, according to the latest estimates from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Exposure to ACEs is linked to many chronic health conditions in adulthood, including cancer, depression, heart disease, obesity, and substance abuse. It is also linked to social problems such as behavioral and learning challenges, homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. The more adversities someone experiences, the higher the likelihood they will suffer substantial and long-lasting social, financial, and health effects throughout childhood and into adulthood. The effects can even be passed from generation to generation.

But negative outcomes aren’t inevitable. Support from healthy relationships and environments can buffer the negative effects that childhood adversities can have on a person’s life.

How Are Children Affected by Adults With ACEs?

Adults who experienced adversities in childhood are more likely to have economic hardship in adulthood. Children in families with economic hardship or high parental stress are more likely to experience adversities than children in less-stressful family environments. In addition, parents and caregivers who experience physical, mental, or financial difficulties of their own may struggle to nurture and provide buffering supports for their children. Because of these links, the effects of an adult’s ACEs can be transmitted to subsequent generations.

Who Is Most Affected by ACEs?

Some populations face greater adversities in childhood than others.

The BRFFS findings show, statewide, that in households with children:

How Can We Break the Cycle?

  • Get involved. Join a local coalition to be part of the effort.
  • Support protective factors like increasing social connectedness within the community; reducing poverty; and improving school readiness, neighborhood safety, and play areas for children.
  • Support efforts to reduce stigma around seeking help with depression, parenting challenges, substance misuse, and suicidal ideation.
  • Improve monitoring:
    • Screen for ACEs; find ways to gather data on childhood adversities and track trends while protecting patient privacy.
    • Expand sample sizes in surveys like the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
    • Track other factors associated with adversities, like child poverty, incarceration, and substance misuse.

Read more about strategies to prevent and address childhood adversity.

Funding for’s latest information on adult retrospective ACEs is provided by the California Department of Public Health, Injury and Violence Prevention Branch, Essentials for Childhood Initiative.



Join us for “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in California,” a webinar hosted by the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative and KidsData that will be held on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m PT.


KidsData in the News

U.S. Birth Rates Rose Slightly in 2021 After a Steep Drop in the First Year of the Pandemic, CDC Data Shows

In a CNN interview, KidsData Acting Director Beth Jarosz discusses the rise in the preterm birth rate in 2021, as well as the overall increase in births that year.

Alta tasa de suicidios entre jóvenes es indicador de la crisis de salud mental

A La Opinión story quoted KidsData Acting Director Beth Jarosz on worrying trends in teen mental health and groups, including indigenous and LGBTQ+ youth, who are at high risk.

California Has a Child Care Crisis. How Finding It—and Paying for It—Can Be a Nightmare

A Fresno Bee article cited KidsData information on the availability of licensed child care.

Free Parenting Program Helps Orange County Children Navigate Anxiety and Fear

A Business Enterprise article cited KidsData information on the share of children ages 12 to 17 who reported needing help for emotional or mental health problems such as feeling sad, anxious, or nervous.

Humboldt Child Care Challenges Highlighted on “National Day Without Child Care”

A KRCR television story cited KidsData figures on the availability of child-care spaces for Humboldt County children living in working families.


Children’s Health Resources

Adverse Childhood Experiences Data Report

The California Essentials for Childhood Initiative has released a new report describing the prevalence of ACEs in California, ACEs-related demographic disparities, and the impacts of ACEs on mental health, behavior, and chronic disease.

Gun Violence and American Children

PRB compiled research on how gun violence affects youth in the United States and what policy strategies can help reduce risk.


Recently Released Data

We recently released data about childhood adversity and resilience, children’s emotional health, deaths, and juvenile arrests.

See links to the latest here.

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17,031 Reasons to Care About Gun Violence

Firearm Death Rate Among Children and Young Adults Ages 0-24

Line graph displaying trends in rate of firearm-related death per 100,000 children and young adults ages 0 to 24 for California and the United States from 2000 to 2020.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day is this week, and last week 19 children and two adults were killed by a shooter at their elementary school. At KidsData, we strive to keep our writing fact based. The fact is, last week many parents—including us—had tears in their eyes as they dropped their children off at school.

The grief we feel as a nation over this tragedy is real. The terror parents are feeling is nearly paralyzing. But paralysis won’t solve this problem. KidsData is dedicated to numbers and here’s one that every Californian should consider:


That’s how many of our state’s young people under age 25 died of firearm injuries from 2000 to 2020.

17,031 who will never hug their mom or dad again.

17,031 who will never start families or see their own children grow up.

Guns are now the leading mechanism of injury-related death for children in the United States. In 2020, for the first time in decades, more children ages 17 and younger died from guns than from motor vehicle crashes. That’s not because fewer car crashes occurred in 2020, but because the number of gun deaths rose faster.

Even though California’s rate of gun-related child and young adult deaths has been well below the national average for a decade, 2020 saw a dramatic increase, led primarily by a rise in homicides.

As grim as these numbers are, they tell only part of the story. Each young person who is lost leaves shattered family members and grieving friends. The numbers also fail to convey the impact on survivors of gun violence who often suffer serious injuries and psychological trauma. (In 2020, 11,258 children under age 18 across the United States went to the emergency room with nonfatal gunshot wounds.) And the numbers cannot capture the traumatic impact of gun violence on all of us as a society. As just one example, a study found that mothers who witness at least one shooting in their community were up to 60% more likely to meet criteria for depression than mothers who did not.

What Can We Do?

Despite more than two decades of a federal freeze on funding gun violence research, we know that there are effective ways to reduce gun violence and gun deaths. For example, safe gun storage works. Research on child access prevention laws links them to a 17% reduction in firearm-related homicides committed by juveniles.

The authors of “Dying Young in The United States: What’s Driving High Death Rates Among Americans Under Age 25 and What Can Be Done?” propose a thorough list of research-backed policy solutions to reduce gun deaths among children and youth, including:

  • Institute universal background checks, waiting periods, and gun safety training.
  • Establish a robust federal database of gun owners and create a national firearm licensing system.
  • Repeal concealed-carry licenses.
  • Ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks.
  • Restrict gun ownership by persons with criminal records, pass extreme risk protection order laws, and use restraining and ex parte orders to reduce gun access among those at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Increase the legal age to buy a gun.
  • Fund research into the risk factors for and effects of gun violence to support evidence-based policy decisions to reduce gun injuries and deaths.

The evidence shows that these common-sense practices could make a big difference. We have 17,031 good reasons to put them into action.

Explore the latest data on firearms deaths at, and stay tuned for updated firearm injuries data, to be added when new data become available.

Adapted from the PRB blog “31,780 Reasons to Care About Gun Violence.”

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Webinar: Prevalence, Disparities, and Impacts of Childhood Adversity in California

Join us Wednesday, June 29, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PT for “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in California,” a webinar hosted by the California Essentials for Childhood (EfC) Initiative and KidsData.

This webinar will highlight new ACEs data collected from 2013 to 2019 through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Beth Jarosz and Nathan Porter of KidsData will report on the statewide prevalence of ACEs, ACEs-related demographic disparities, the impact of ACEs on Californians’ mental health, behavior, and chronic disease, and how to access the new data.

Register now for the “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in California” webinar. Upon registration, a calendar invitation with Zoom information will be emailed to you. If you have questions, please email [email protected].

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Latest Test Results Underscore Stark Inequities Impacting California K-12 Students

Reading Proficiency Among California Students Tested in 2021, by Race/Ethnicity

Bar display of reading profiency among students students tested in 2021, by Race/Ethnicity

The annual California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests typically are completed by more than 95% of public-school students statewide in grades 3 through 8 and 11. But testing did not occur in 2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and in 2021 fewer than 25% of students completed the tests.

While the latest data represent only a fraction of students, the results—supported by a California Department of Education analysis of individual students’ scores across time—point to continued struggles with disparities in math and reading proficiency across racial and ethnic groups and socioeconomic levels.

Key 2021 findings:

  • Statewide, only about one-third of students who were tested met or exceeded their grade-level standards in math, and less than half of students met or exceeded standards in reading (English language arts).
  • Among racial/ethnic groups for which data are available, at least 60% of Asian, Filipino, multiracial, and white students scored proficient in reading, compared with fewer than 45% of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. Math proficiency results show a similar achievement gap between these same groups.
  • Students with limited English language skills (English learners)—who tend to have added academic challenges compared with English-fluent students—were less likely to be proficient in reading and math.
  • Among students who were socioeconomically disadvantaged—those eligible for free or reduced-price school meals or whose parents did not finish high school—only 20% scored proficient in math versus more than 50% of students who were not disadvantaged. Similarly, just over one-third of disadvantaged students were proficient in reading, compared with about two-thirds of their peers without socioeconomic disadvantage.

Substantial academic inequities by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status have endured statewide and nationally for decades. While major education policy reforms have taken place in recent years, California leaders face ongoing challenges in serving six million K-12 public school students, more than half of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged and more than one in six are English learners. Continued efforts are needed to ensure that all students—regardless of race, language, social position, or circumstance—have equitable access to high-quality learning environments, instruction, and supports necessary for their success.

KidsData in the News

Mental Health Crisis: Calaveras Students Experience Depression, Suicidal Thoughts, High Rates of Abuse

A Calaveras Enterprise report on youth mental health in Calaveras County includes KidsData figures on depression and child maltreatment.

How the Deadly COVID-19 Pandemic Has Forever Changed the Nation

In a KCBS interview, KidsData Acting Director Beth Jarosz discusses how the pandemic has affected California’s children.

Children’s Health Resources

Data Playbook for Prevention Action Planning

KidsData is featured in this guide developed by Safe and Sound to help counties source, select, gather, analyze, and share data to create effective child maltreatment prevention plans.

Community Strategies to Address California’s Digital Divide and Its Impact on Children and Families (PDF)

This new report by PACEs Connection and the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative focuses on the impact of the digital divide on children’s health and well-being and on the communities in which children live, grow, and play.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about children’s emotional health, foster care, math proficiency, and reading proficiency. See links to the latest here.

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Child Maltreatment Cases Declined During Pandemic, But Are Children Safer?

Children With Substantiated Reports of Abuse or Neglect, 2000-2020

Trend of children with substantiated cases of abuse, 2000-2020

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, an opportunity to encourage action to ensure that every child has a safe and nurturing home environment. If not prevented or addressed, child maltreatment can disrupt healthy brain development and have lasting negative effects on physical well-being, mental health, and life opportunities.

According to the latest data, 61,419 California children under age 18 were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in 2020, down from 69,680 in 2019. While the rate of children with confirmed (substantiated) reports of maltreatment has been falling for 20 years, the drop in 2020 was particularly sharp, at more than 10%. In addition, the rate of children alleged (reported) to have been abused or neglected declined by more than 17% in 2020, after holding fairly steady for two decades.

Do these declines in maltreatment cases mean children were safer in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic? Child welfare experts have mixed views.

It’s important to remember that the data presented here do not capture child maltreatment that is never reported. Also, the pandemic’s impacts will vary according to each family’s risk and protective factors.

Some leaders and scholars suggest that because many families faced increased stress and financial hardship—two risk factors for maltreatment—children may have been less safe in 2020. Moreover, closures of schools, child-care centers, and public places meant children had less contact with adults outside the home who could witness and report suspected maltreatment. In other words, the dip may have been in reporting, rather than in maltreatment itself.

According to other experts, it’s possible that children were safer in 2020, as government assistance alleviated financial stress for some families, and more time together at home may have strengthened child-caregiver relationships. Ultimately, it’s difficult to determine whether the declines in 2020 figures are due to decreases in maltreatment, underreporting, or both.

Even if declines in the most recent data reflect improved child safety overall, concerning trends persist:

  • Increasingly, the state’s youngest children face the highest risk for reported and substantiated maltreatment. In 2020, 46% of confirmed victims were under age 6, up from 39% in 2000.
  • In California, more than 7 in 10 children with substantiated reports of maltreatment suffer general neglect. The inability to provide for a child’s basic needs is often related to inadequate family income or access to support services.
  • Statewide and nationally, African American/Black and American Indian/Alaska Native children are consistently overrepresented at all stages of involvement with the child welfare system, from reported and substantiated maltreatment to removal from home and placement in foster care. This is due to an array of complex factors, including systemic racism and bias, that disadvantage communities of color.

Child maltreatment can be eliminated through strategies that address socioeconomic inequities; improve the quality and availability of support services, particularly for groups at risk; and promote protective factors at the individual, family, community, and system levels. In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we all can embrace children’s well-being as a shared responsibility and take action to support children and families in our communities. Read more about ways to prevent child abuse and neglect.

KidsData in the News

Domestic Violence in California: Signs of Abuse and First Steps to Get Help

A Sacramento Bee report on domestic violence referenced a recent KidsData blog on intimate partner violence (subscription required).

Expertos aconsejan vacunar a los niños para evitar que 2022 sea el peor año para los menores

A La Opinión report quoted KidsData Deputy Director Beth Jarosz on trends in child COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Health Data Resource

Building Up Communities by Breaking Down Data

Only by disaggregating data can we understand enough to make wise policy decisions that build up our communities. Read more.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about child abuse and neglect, pupil support services, school attendance and discipline, and student demographics. See links to the latest here.

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Calls for Assistance Don’t Tell Full Story of Intimate Partner Violence During the Pandemic

Domestic Violence Calls for Assistance per 1,000 Adults, by County, 2020

Map of domestic violence calls for assistance by California county for 2020, with a rate per 1,000 adults.

Increases in intimate partner violence (IPV) after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 have been widely documented, as many families experienced financial strain, social isolation, and other pressures. IPV may involve stalking, psychological aggression, sexual coercion or violence, or physical violence by a current or past intimate partner. Survivors of IPV—and the children who witness it—may experience immediate psychological trauma and physical injuries, as well as increased risks of long-term emotional, social, and health problems.

About one in three California parents/caregivers of children under age 18 experienced at least one form of IPV—psychological or physical—during the first 16 months of the pandemic, according to July 2021 estimates. More than one in four caregivers experienced psychological IPV, and one in six caregivers experienced physical violence.

While IPV occurs across all demographic groups, caregivers of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) were particularly impacted. In the first 16 months of the pandemic, nearly half (49%) of CSHCN caregivers experienced some type of IPV, 41% experienced psychological IPV, and 29% experienced physical IPV—more than twice the estimates for caregivers without CSHCN.

Percentage of Caregivers Experiencing IPV During COVID-19 Pandemic, by Household CSHCN Status, July 2021

Bar chart of percentage of California caregivers experiencing intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, for caregivers in households with children with special health care needs, households without children with special health care needs, and all households, as of July 2021.

In 2020, 160,646 domestic violence calls for assistance were made to California authorities—a rate of 6.1 calls per 1,000 adults ages 18 to 69. Although statewide figures held steady between 2019 and 2020, a majority of counties saw their rates increase.

Why do calls for assistance and caregiver reports paint a different picture of IPV in California? Data on domestic violence calls, while concerning, likely represent only a portion of IPV incidents. Many who experience IPV do not seek help, and “domestic violence” captures only certain acts and threats of physical injury, subject to interpretation by law enforcement. High rates of IPV among caregivers during the pandemic point to a more serious public health issue, and a greater need for services and supports to address the impacts of IPV on survivors, children, and families.

Fortunately, IPV can be prevented. Efforts targeted at teenagers and young adults are critical, as younger partners are at higher risk than older groups. Policymakers and other leaders can support cross-sector, comprehensive strategies at the individual, family, and community levels. For example, schools can provide safe, supportive environments and programs to teach youth healthy relationship skills, while policymakers can fund family support services and strengthen the safety net to improve family financial security. Read more about what can be done to prevent and address IPV.

KidsData in the News

‘A Gentler Start’ as Local School Districts Prepare to Expand Transitional Kindergarten

A Mountain View Voice report on state plans for expanding transitional kindergarten cites KidsData’s indicator of annual child care costs.

Children’s Health Resource

Children Born During Pandemic May Experience Slight Neurodevelopmental Delays

A new study by researchers at Columbia University and the Columbia Population Research Center shows that infants born during the pandemic—regardless of whether their mothers had COVID-19 during pregnancy—scored slightly lower on certain tests of neurodevelopment at six months old, compared to a similar group of infants born before the pandemic.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about characteristics of children with special needs, intimate partner violence, nutrition, and school climate. See links to the latest here.

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Child Poverty: Why Measurement Matters

Children in Poverty According to Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2020

Screenshot of SPM Child Poverty Rates

The way poverty is measured plays a role in the distribution of emergency relief during periods of economic instability. What policymakers mean when they talk about poverty has implications for the function and scope of the social safety net in ensuring children and families have the resources necessary for an adequate standard of living.

The share of children in poverty is often quantified according to the official poverty measure based on federal poverty thresholds. Developed in 1963, this measure compares a family’s pre-tax cash income against an inflation-adjusted threshold derived from the cost of a minimally adequate diet. It does not account for in-kind resources, non-food expenses, or geographic variations in the cost of living.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) was developed to address shortcomings of the official poverty measure by accounting for a range of common expenditures and government benefits. Additionally, the SPM adopts a broader view of resource and expense sharing among individuals living together, extending the definition of a family to include unmarried partners and their children, along with unrelated and foster children. SPM thresholds also are adjusted according to whether a family rents or owns their home.

The California Poverty Measure (CPM) builds on the SPM method, with adjustments tailored to the state’s unique population, policies, and benefits. For example, the CPM incorporates California-specific safety net supports, correction for survey underreporting of program participation, and finer geographic detail in housing cost adjustments.

Read more about how poverty in the United States is measured and why it matters.

Also learn more about these and other measures of economic well-being available on

Children’s Health Resource

A new PRB Population Bulletin, “Dying Young in the United States,” spotlights the wide gap in death rates between Americans under age 25 and their peers in other wealthy countries. Explore why policies that reduce child poverty, address interlocking systems of racial/ethnic discrimination, and improve health care access for all families could lower the country’s disproportionately high death rate.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about intimate partner violence and family income and poverty. See links to the latest here.

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