Household incomes for Washington’s poorest families have yet to recover from the 2008 recession, according to the national 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation.
Washington is ranked 15th among the 50 states (PDF) in the Data Book this year; that’s four places higher than last year, when it was ranked 19th.
Since 2008, the number of children growing up without health coverage has improved by 38 percent. That’s good news, as coverage is all but essential for kids to see a health professional or get medicine when they’re sick. Credit is due to the state’s Cover All Kids law, which passed in 2007 and created affordable health coverage called Apple Health for Kids. The Affordable Care Act’s 2014 creation of a flexible market for individual plans has also propelled child coverage in Washington to one of the nation’s highest.
Yet the child poverty rate is nearly 30 percent higher than it was in 2008, with an additional 59,000 children growing up below the federal poverty level.
Poverty can impede children’s cognitive, social and emotional development and contribute to poor health. And its destructive effects are more often felt by kids of color. Nationally, African American children are twice as likely as others to be growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods. American Indian children are twice as likely to lack health coverage. Stressors like these are one aspect of America’s legacy of structural racism, which undermines progress for children and the state as a whole.
Kids are better off when their parents are better off. That’s why the Children’s Alliance supports two-generation approaches to creating economic security for both children and their parents, like Initiative 1433.
Starting early next year, I-1433 would raise the take-home pay for the parents of an estimated 90,000 Washington children. And it would also provide up to seven days of paid sick and safe leave per year, increasing the odds that parents can make ends meet when they need to take care of themselves or their children.
KIDS COUNT in Washington is a partnership of the Children’s Alliance with the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, pursuing measurable improvements in child outcomes through equitable public-policy measures. We give policymakers and the public the knowledge they need to remove the barriers kids face to brighter, freer, more equal futures. The KIDS COUNT Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.