Connecticut’s policies cause egregious racial disparities among children

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“We all do better when we all do better.” For nearly two decades, the phrase coined in 1999 by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) has reminded us that our nation is strengthened by shared prosperity. Amid escalating conversations around race, immigration, and disparities in outcomes for children by race and immigration status, the idea that our collective future depends on the success of every child is more important than ever.

As one of the wealthiest states in the nation, Connecticut faces unique challenges in achieving the goal of putting children first. Here, huge disparities in outcomes across race and ethnicity stem from de facto segregation and barriers facing people of color, while successful immigrants work to close gaps.

Connecticut has a higher proportion of children with at least one immigrant parent compared to the national population, but children in immigrant families here are far more likely to be non-Hispanic white—and far less likely to be Hispanic—than nationally. Similarly, at 66 percent, more U.S. born children are non-Hispanic white—and fewer are African-American—than nationally.

Here, 81 percent of non-Hispanic white children live in two-parent homes, compared with 42 and 52 percent of African American and Latino children, respectively. While 97 and 91 percent of non-Hispanic white and Black children live in a family where the householder has at least a high school degree, only 77 of Hispanic children do.

Certain elements of family composition correlate with child poverty. While 70 percent of all children in Connecticut live above 200 percent of the poverty line, only 47 and 40 percent of African-American and Latino children, respectively, live in families earning this minimum amount of income for a modest, middle-class life. Likewise, a significantly lower percentage of African-American and Latino children live in areas of low poverty than non-Hispanic white children, who also graduate high school on time at a higher rate, and dramatically outpace children of color in rates of fourth grade reading and eighth grade math proficiency.

In a state where white, non-immigrant children frequently outperform their national counterparts, and considering research linking disparities in educational attainment with the income gap across race and ethnicity, these discrepancies are egregious for Connecticut’s children and communities.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, examines outcomes across racial and ethnic groups on key education, health, and economic measures, and calls attention to these disparities.

While children of color and children in immigrant families are being left behind nationally, the report finds that children of immigrants fare better in Connecticut than in most states. Here, they are more likely to reside in two-parent homes and with householders who have at least a high school degree.

While the causes of child poverty are multifaceted, children in Connecticut’s immigrant families benefit from elements of family stability not equally abundant across the nation. With respect to the percentages of children in immigrant families living in low poverty areas, and of children in immigrant families living with incomes above a subsistence threshold, Connecticut is doing better than the national average.

Connecticut’s demographic composition and persistent gaps across race and ethnicity influence outcomes for children in immigrant families. Children of immigrants benefit from the increased economic stability necessary to fully participate in and contribute to our communities. Despite the overall strength of Connecticut’s child outcomes, that success is not shared equitably.

The clear takeaway from the 2017 Race for Results report is not that immigrant families do better in Connecticut because immigrant parents do better, nor that children of color face worse outcomes because of their parents. Rather, it is that policies, combined with historical inequities, disadvantage African-American and Latino families.

The policy implications are equally clear. To support the success of all children, Connecticut must make courageous investments in education to combat the achievement gap, and must take leaps to ensure that working families can get and stay ahead. Fully funding programs like Care4Kids child care subsidies and protecting the Earned Income Tax Credit are among the most concrete, effective options. Supporting the state’s remedial education programs and funding higher education scholarships are also great first steps. Lastly, we can promise to balance the budget without cutting programs that families depend on.

In this way, we can all do better, together.

Emmanuel Adero is a policy analyst and Kayla Goldfarb a policy intern at the Connecticut Association for Human Services.

 

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