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California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being finds wide racial disparities in health, education of LA children

Craig Clough | November 15, 2016



children nowAlthough there have been improvements over the last two years, wide racial disparities remain for children in Los Angeles County and California when it comes to education, health, welfare and well-being, according to a new report from Children Now.

The 2016–2017 California County Scorecard of Children’s Well-Being found that although 41 percent of students in LA are reading at grade level in third grade, only 33 percent of Latino children and 28 percent of African-American children hit that benchmark, compared to 66 percent of white children. These gulfs in racial performance exist throughout all age groups, including 8th-grade math proficiency, college math course readiness and high school graduation rates.

The study also found that African-American and Latino children are less likely than white children to have a usual source of health care, less likely to be a healthy weight and are more likely to be living in communities of concentrated poverty.

“We saw this across counties, with the disparity in race and ethnicity, especially looking at the education indicators,” said Jessica Dalesandro Mindnich, director of research for Children Now. “And in thinking about the diversity of Los Angeles County and the state more generally, I think that has potentially significant impacts for our future workforce.”

The scorecard has been produced every two years since 2008 and studied all 58 of California’s counties in the areas of health, education, child welfare and economic well-being. Overall, LA county children showed mostly gains in the areas of education and health since 2014, but mostly losses in child welfare and economic well-being. LA County’s youth received 2.5 out of five stars in education, 2.5 out of five stars in health and 3.5 out of five stars in child welfare and economic well-being.

Children Now used to produce a scorecard that gave each county a letter grade but switched to the star system in multiple categories starting with the 2014 report.

“Folks kind of told us that grades really weren’t helpful, comparing, ‘This is the best county versus the worst county,'” Mindnich said. “What we heard on the ground was that there are 1,000 things like that and it’s not really helpful to us. And so we did want to give some top-level context to these indicators, so we felt five stars is a little more intuitive.”

Some key findings of the study include:

  • 33 percent of LA County 8th-graders met or exceed state standards in math, compared to 36 percent for the state.
  • 54 percent of white 8th-graders met or exceed state standards in math, compared to 23 percent of Latino students and 16 percent of African-American students.
  • 79 percent of LA County children are not living in communities of concentrated poverty, compared to 83 percent for the state. But 97 percent of white children are not living in concentrated poverty, compared to 71 percent for Latino children and 73 percent for African-American children.
  • 59 percent of LA County children are a healthy weight, compared to a 62 percent state average. But 72 percent of white children are a healthy weight, compared to 53 percent of Latino children and 59 percent of African-American children. Overall, the county was up from 53 percent in 2014.

“I think overall some of the things that really stuck out to me were places where we saw vast improvement, in particular, in kids that were a healthy weight,” Mindnich said. “We saw improvements across the state and in most counties, and that really reflects years of dedication to reducing childhood obesity rates, so that was a really good sign for us.”

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