October 24, 2017

Wisconsin Is Failing Its Children of Color

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, which measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health, and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. The report’s index uses a composite score of these milestones on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons.

The findings of the report demonstrate that the well-being of kids in immigrant families and kids of color, particularly African American kids, lags significantly behind their white peers throughout our state:

  • In Wisconsin, just 64% of African American students graduate high school on time, compared to 93% of white non-Hispanic students. Only 78% of Hispanic and American Indian students graduate on time.
  • 72% of white children in Wisconsin live in families that are economically secure compared to just 24% of African American children, 30% of Latino children, 31% of Hmong children, and 36% of American Indian children.
  • Wisconsin children in immigrant families are one third less likely to live in families who are economically secure (double the poverty level) than children in US-born families.
  • The 4th grade reading proficiency rate of Wisconsin children in US-born families is dramatically low, only 39%. That compares to an appallingly low rate of 9% of Wisconsin children in immigrant families.

Wisconsin has the largest gap between the well-being of White and African American children in the nation, and there are significant challenges to well-being for Latino, American Indian, and Hmong children as well. Wisconsin is failing its children of color.

For Wisconsin to reach its full potential, every child, every family, and every community must thrive. For every child and family to be successful, it takes family supporting jobs, high quality education, and targeted support for working parents. The problem is that those things are not equitably available across race and ethnicity. The policies and systems that have been created make the things essential to well-being much more available to White children, families, and communities. That has to change. We  will not be successful as a state if it continues to put barriers in the way of children of color that keep them further away from opportunity. Addressing barriers to success for children of color is particularly important right now, given that our future will be much more diverse than it currently is. In fact, nearly all of the population growth in the foreseeable future will be from children of color.

The history of Wisconsin, and our country as a whole, contains myriad examples of the mistreatment of people of color. This mistreatment has played a large role in creating deep differences in opportunity among children today based on their race or ethnicity. We cannot move forward without recognizing the intergenerational impacts of this mistreatment and we cannot expect children of color to overcome these institutional barriers by sheer force of will. Recognizing this history of oppression and breaking down these barriers is the responsibility of each one of us—and it is time, long past time, that we act.

Read the full report and two executive summaries written by Kids Forward by clicking here. The chart below provides an excellent visual of how children of color in Wisconsin are faring compared to children throughout the country based on the 2017 Race for Results report.

Ken Taylor, Kids Forward Executive Director