CDF Examines Progress Made Since Dr. King's Death
January 25, 2008
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WASHINGTON, DC—The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) is commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his death 40 years ago with an analysis of child well-being over the last four decades to track progress and identify the crucial areas of unmet needs of children.
"While great progress has been made since Dr. King's death, America remains an unequal playing field for our children," CDF President Marian Wright Edelman said. "Today, 13 million children still live in poverty, 9.4 million don’t have health coverage, and countless others are forced to live in dangerous communities and without adequate education—all of which disproportionately affects minority and poor families. The most dangerous place to live in America remains at the intersection of race and poverty. To honor Dr. King's legacy and keep his dream alive, we must finish the job that he and so many before him started."
Comparing key indicators of child well-being in 1968—the year of Dr. King's death—to the most recent data available, there have been several areas of real improvement:
- High school graduation rates have significantly increased. In 1968, 73.2 percent of 25-29-year-olds had a high school credential, while in 2006, 86.4 percent did; the rate for Blacks increased from 55.8 percent in 1968 to 85.6 percent in 2006.
- The teen birth rate has decreased from 66.1 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 1968 to 21.4 in 2005; the rate for Black females decreased from 139.1 in 1968 to 62.0 in 2005.
- The percent of Blacks aged 25-29 who have completed at least four years of college increased from 5.3 percent in 1968 to 18.6 percent in 2006; the rate overall went from 14.7 percent in 1968 to 28.4 percent in 2006.
- Infant mortality has decreased from 21.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 6.89 in 2005; the rate for Blacks has decreased from 36.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 13.69.
But these important markers of progress risk being reversed by the increasing poverty rate for children and growing disparities between Black and White children in America:
- In 1968, 12.8 percent of children lived in poverty, while in 2006, 17.4 percent of children—one in six for a total of nearly 13 million—lived in poverty. This represents an increase of more than 1.2 million children since the year 2000.
- Infant mortality has decreased from 21.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1968 to 6.87 in 2005, and the rate for Blacks has decreased from 36.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 13.78—yet the rate for Blacks is still more than twice the rate for Whites.
- The percent of children living in two-parent households has decreased from 85.4 percent in 1968 to 67.4 percent in 2006; for Black children, that number decreased from 58.7 percent in 1968 to 34.6 percent in 2006.
- A Black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy born the same year, a 1 in 6 chance.
For more information on the Children's Defense Fund, visit www.childrensdefense.org.