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2017 State of America’s Children® Release

Los Angeles–Children’s Defense Fund’s The State of America’s Children® 2017 details the immoral and preventable poverty, homelessness, hunger, health problems, poor education and violence plaguing children.

The most recent data suggest:

  • Child Population: The U.S. has 73.6 million children. Children of color, who are disproportionately poor, will be a majority of our children by 2020.
    • In California, there are 9 million children and 74 percent are children of color.
  • Child Poverty: Nearly 1 in 5 children are poor-more than 13.2 million. Nearly 70 percent of poor children are non-White. 8 percent of children live in extreme poverty.
    • In California, one in 5 children – approx. 1.78 million – are poor. Children of color are disproportionately impacted: 30 percent of Black children and 27 percent of Latino children are poor.
    • 8 percent of California children live in extreme poverty.
  • Income and Wealth Inequality: Unjust income and wealth inequality is soaring. Since the end of the Great Recession, income of the top 1 percent has grown 27 percent compared with 8 percent for the bottom 99 percent. White families’ average wealth is seven times greater than Black families’ and five times greater than Hispanic families’.
    • In California, $101,300 was the median income for White families with children compared with $44,900 for Black and $43,500 for Latino families in 2015.
  • Housing and Homelessness: More than 1.2 million public school children are homeless, excluding younger children and youths not enrolled in school
    • In California, 235,983 homeless children were enrolled in public schools during the 2014–2015 school year
  • Child Hunger and Nutrition: Nearly 1 in 5 children–14.8 million-live in food-insecure households.
    • 1 in 5 California children – 1.9 million – live in food insecure households.
  • Child Health: Despite progress 3.9 million children lack health coverage.
    • In California, 267,815 children age 0–17 were uninsured
  • Early Childhood: Nearly 1.4 million children were served each month by the Child Care and Development Fund in 2015. However, more than 370,000 subsidies have been lost since 2006-the year before the recession began
    • In California, nearly 67,000 fewer children were served by the Child Care and Development Fund in 2015 than in 2006.
  • Education: The majority of all public school fourth and eighth graders cannot read at grade level. More than 75 percent of Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children cannot read at grade level.
    • In California, 86 percent of Black, 84 percent of Latino and 54 percent of White 4th grade public school students could not read at grade level in 2015.
  • Child Welfare: The number of children in foster care is increasing rapidly as the opioid crisis spins out of control. Children in foster care in 2015 were disproportionately Black.
    • In California, 53 percent of children in foster care in 2015 were Latino, 19 percent were Black, and 20 percent were White. The percent of Black children in foster care was more than four times the percent of Black children in the overall child population.
  • Child Trauma: Neuroscience research has demonstrated that untreated childhood can cause adult chronic diseases, and poorer education and employment outcomes. As of 2016, nearly half of all children have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and 1 in 5 have had at least two ACEs.
    • 16 percent of California children have had at least two ACEs..
  • Juvenile Justice: In 2015, 48,043 children were held in residential placement; more than 60 percent were Black or Latino.
    • In California, 55 percent of children in residential placement in 2015 were Latino, 28 percent were Black; and 13 percent were White.
  • Gun Violence: Eight children and teens are killed with guns daily. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black children and teens.
    • 724 California children were killed by guns between 2013 and 2015.

The report addresses the dire needs facing children in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands even before the hurricanes; offers a portrait of immigrant children; and describes how America ranks among rich countries for investing in children. Despite our great wealth, the U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in investing in our children and consistently ranks among the worst on key child outcomes. We should be ashamed.

“This is one of the scariest times America’s children have faced in the struggle to level the playing field as the last 50 years of progress in child health coverage, nutrition, and education are under assault,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund. “We should be building on what we know works and moving forward, not backwards, to improve the odds for children who need our protection. We urge the American public to stand up and stop this war on children now.”

Download The State of America’s Children 2017 and a volume of one-page factsheets summarizing children’s status in individual states, the District of Columbia and nationwide here



Download The State of America’s Children 2017 and a volume of one-page factsheets summarizing children’s status in individual states, the District of Columbia and nationwide here

Media Contact

Cadonna Dory
o: (213) 355-8790 // c: (323) 385-6342


Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) is a state office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for over 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF-CA champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, ensure all children have access to health coverage and care and a quality education, and invest in our justice-involved youth.

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