KIDS COUNT: Coloradans Report that Racial Disparities in Child Well-Being Are Deeply Rooted in Policy

Data and community focus groups show policy obstacles based on race and ethnicity drive disparities in well-being of Colorado kids, according to annual KIDS COUNT report

KIDS COUNT: Coloradans Report that Racial Disparities in Child Well-Being Are Deeply Rooted in Policy

Data and community focus groups show policy obstacles based on race and ethnicity drive disparities in well-being of Colorado kids, according to annual KIDS COUNT report


April 28th, 2017

Denver, CO – The 2017 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! highlights racial and ethnic inequities in child well-being and explores how public policy decisions—intentional and not—throughout our country’s history have shaped the opportunities available to children and families of color in Colorado.

The 24th edition of the KIDS COUNT report, “Elevating Equity: A Vibrant Future for All Colorado Kids,” pairs disparities in child well-being with voices and experiences of Coloradans to explore the challenges and opportunities facing Colorado children based on their race and ethnicity. The annual report is produced by the Colorado Children’s Campaign as part of the national KIDS COUNT project.

“Digging into data on child well-being often shows gaps in child well-being between children of color and white children,” said Kelly Causey, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign. “But the data don’t tell us the whole story. Only Coloradans, in their own voices, can do that. So we took the data into communities and listened.”

The findings in the report are driven by quantitative and qualitative research in the form of statistics and the voices of Coloradans across the state who shared how their experiences are reflected in those numbers. The Children’s Campaign heard these voices focus groups with community members and leaders in four Colorado communities—Alamosa, Fort Morgan, Denver and La Plata County. We sought to hear what is driving disparities in child well-being for children of color and families living in poverty. The research was conducted in fall 2016 by the Denver-based OMNI Institute with guidance from Center for Social Inclusion, which is based in New York.

While the data contained in the report show that Coloradans have work to do to create a state where children from all racial and ethnic backgrounds have equitable opportunities, we know that children, parents, families, and communities aren’t defined by disparities or data points. Despite the policy barriers they face, children of color and their families achieve significant success in education, health and economic well-being. Smart public policies that build on the inherent strengths of each Colorado family will make our state the best place in the country to be a kid.

“We learned that so many of the barriers facing children of color are caused by public policy—and they can be undone by public policy,” Causey said. “We have a responsibility to understand these obstacles and find ways to remove them. When every child succeeds—no matter their race, ethnicity, income or location—our whole state benefits.”

Findings from the research about family economic security:

  • Historical policies and practices that helped white Americans purchase homes or attend college, while excluding many Americans of color, have created a racial and ethnic wealth gap that persists today.
  • Rising rents and housing prices across the state are stretching family budgets and limiting affordable housing options. More than one third of all Colorado children live in families that are burdened by housing costs, and housing cost burden disproportionately affects Colorado kids of color.
  • Policy choices have created communities that are often segregated along racial or economic lines, concentrating many children of color in areas of high poverty, regardless of their own family income. Due to racial and economic segregation, an American Indian child in Colorado whose family income is above the poverty line is more likely to live in a high-poverty area than a poor white child.
  • Due to policies that have created or maintained inequitable opportunities in areas such as housing and employment, poverty affects children of color at higher rates than white children.

Findings related to health of children:

  • Although health insurance coverage has improved for kids of all races and ethnicities, barriers to coverage remain for Latino and American Indian children in particular. As of 2015, 3 percent of white children in Colorado were uninsured, compared to 6 percent of Latino children and 13 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children.
  • Children with family members who are undocumented immigrants face barriers to enrollment, even when they are eligible for health insurance coverage.
  • Many women of color face barriers to health coverage and services that can impede access to early prenatal care.
  • Health care disparities, economic barriers, and historical discrimination lead to an infant mortality rate for black babies that is more than twice as high as any other group. This is true regardless of the income of the mother.
  • Fewer than half of working parents in Colorado have access to unpaid family leave protections, and even fewer can afford to take unpaid leave when they do qualify for it. Just one-quarter of Hispanic parents, about one-third of Asian/Pacific Islander or Black parents and 43 percent of white parents are eligible for, and can afford to take, unpaid family leave from work.
  • Discrimination, social isolation, and barriers to health coverage and care contribute to higher rates of pregnancy-related depression among women of color.

Findings about early childhood learning and development:

  • Across Colorado, only about half of all young children are enrolled in preschool, nursery school or kindergarten. Barriers to preschool enrollment, including affordability and the disproportionate use of suspensions and expulsions, are more likely to affect children of color.
  • Exclusionary discipline practices, including suspension and expulsions, deny many young children of valuable learning time in early years. These actions aren’t applied equally to all students. Boys, particularly black boys, and students with disabilities face disciplinary action at disproportionally higher rates.

Findings about K-12 education:

  • Housing policies and practices that have isolated many families of color in high-poverty neighborhoods have driven significant educational disparities. Colorado students of color are more than six times as likely to attend a high-poverty school than their white peers. Across the state, 5 percent of white students attended a school in which at least 75 percent of students qualified for free or reduced price lunch, while 32 percent of students of color attended one of these high-poverty schools.
  • Racial segregation within school districts, as well as between neighboring school districts, is a driver of achievement gaps in public schools. Teachers in highly segregated schools are more likely to be new to the teaching profession, uncertified, and absent for a significant portion of the school year. Highly segregated schools are also less likely to offer opportunities for advanced coursework in many subjects.
  • The average student of color in Colorado attends a school in which 14 percent of teachers are uncertified. That’s nearly two and half times higher than schools attended by the average white student.

For a full copy of the report, please visit Full copies of research summaries and participant quotes gathered during focus groups sessions are also available. Data on child well-being by county is also provided.


About Colorado Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child well-being in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child well-being and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit