Top five takeaways from the 2019 KIDS COUNT

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: August 30, 2019

Kids Count release announcement

We’ve released the 2019 edition of KIDS COUNT in Colorado! and we’re excited to share five take-aways from our 26th annual report. As always, you can find the full PDF on our website and we’ll have county data sheets up soon. If you are able to help spread the word, we have sample social media posts available.

The 2020 Census is a kids’ issue. KIDS COUNT couldn’t exist without data from the decennial census. The 2020 Census is around the corner—and young kids are historically the age group most likely to be undercounted. Why does that matter? Since the census is used to allocate federal funding and determine political representation, an undercount of young kids would result in Colorado losing millions of dollars in federal funding for programs like Head Start, Medicaid and special education, and our state won’t have the political power in Washington that it deserves based on our population. The census is also a critical source of data on everything from child poverty to housing to health insurance. Undercounting Colorado’s young children in the next census would result in skewed data for the next decade. Child advocates have a critical role to play in making sure this doesn’t happen; see the full report for more information on how you can get involved.

Far fewer Colorado kids are living in poverty as of 2017 than five years prior. In 2017, 149,000 Colorado kids experienced poverty (about 12 percent of all kids in the state), a big drop from 224,000 in 2012. But long-standing policies and practices that have limited opportunity for families of color mean that not all Colorado kids are seeing the same benefits from Colorado’s economy. As of 2017, Hispanic/Latino, black, and multiracial children were more than twice as likely to experience poverty as their white peers—a reflection of how economic opportunity too often isn’t available based on your race or ethnicity.

Colorado’s teens are telling us about their mental health struggles. Colorado’s teen suicide rate hit a record high in 2017, reaching 21 suicides per 100,000 teens ages 15 to 19. This rate represents 76 young lives lost to suicide in 2017. Even more teens report struggling with their mental health. In the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, nearly one in three Colorado high school students reported feeling sadness and hopelessness that stopped them from doing their usual activities for at least two weeks, and nearly one in five reported that they had seriously considered suicide in the past year. The report also includes data on suicides among children from 10 to 14 years old, an age group that also saw a jump in suicides according to the most recent data.

More Colorado babies are living to see their first birthday, but the state has work to do to ensure the health and safety of women during pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Since 1990, Colorado’s infant mortality rate has fallen by almost half, reaching 4.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017. But our state’s maternal mortality rate, which measures deaths while pregnant or within a year of giving birth, is on the rise. Between 2008 and 2013, the maternal mortality rate in Colorado almost doubled. Injury and mental/behavioral health conditions are the leading causes of maternal mortality in Colorado, causing six out of every 10 deaths.

Colorado’s inequitable education funding formula and unfair property tax system continue to put students in our state at a disadvantage compared to their peers across the country. The most recent data available show that Colorado ranks 42nd in the nation for per-student education funding—and 42nd isn’t good enough for our kids. Colorado’s per-pupil funding sat $2,700 below the national average after adjusting for regional cost differences as of 2016, the most recent year for which comparison data are available. Even within Colorado, the amount of funding available to educate kids varies dramatically from district to district, thanks to our state’s unfair property tax system and a patchwork of mill levy overrides. What does this inadequate funding mean for kids? Four-day school weeks in more than half of our districts, billions of dollars in unmet school facility needs, and teaching positions that go unfilled or are filled with long-term substitutes instead of full-time, licensed teachers—these are just a few of the consequences of our state’s outdated school finance system.

Want even more data on how Colorado’s kids are doing? Click here to read the full 2019 KIDS COUNT report, or visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center for data on how kids in your county or school district are faring.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is Vice President of Research Initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data analysis efforts, including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report, and provides research and data support to inform and advance the Children’s Campaign’s policy agenda. She also co-chairs the organization’s internal Equity Team. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in communications and spent several years working and volunteering with kids in various capacities. She holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in Advocacy, Leadership and Social Change from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two crazy dogs.