The Forum fosters coordination and integration among 22 Federal agencies that produce or use statistical data on children and families and seeks to improve Federal data on children and families. The America's Children series provides accessible compendiums of indicators drawn across topics from the most reliable official statistics; it is designed to complement other more specialized, technical, or comprehensive reports produced by various Forum agencies.
The indicators and demographic background measures presented in America's Children in Brief all have been presented in previous Forum reports. Indicators are chosen because they are easy to understand, are based on substantial research connecting them to child well-being, cut across important areas of children's lives, are measured regularly so that they can be updated and show trends over time, and represent large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.
Preterm births and adolescent births declined, eighth graders' math and reading scores increased, and more children had health insurance, according to the federal government's annual statistical report on the well-being of the nation's children and youth. The report also showed several economic changes that coincided with the beginning of the economic downturn: increases in child poverty and food insecurity, as well as a decline in secure parental employment.
The report, America's Children In Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2010 was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to children and families. The report groups the most recently available major federal statistics on children and youth under several domains: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. The purpose of the report is to provide statistical information on children and families in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format in order to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and members of the public."The decline in preterm births is encouraging," said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Preterm infants are at higher risk for death in the first year of life, for serious illness in infancy, and, in later life, for obesity and its associated complications."
"Also of note is the decrease in births to teens," said Edward Sondik, Ph.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. "This drop occurred after two years of increases, and we will be interested to see if this is the beginning of a new trend."
Dr. Sondik said that the report on the well-being of the nation's children is a significant vehicle in informing the nation about key issues in their lives.
"The impact of the federal agency collaboration cannot be understated—our commitment to the future is evidenced in our measured analysis of the past."
Among the statistically significant changes seen in the period 2007–2008 are:
- A drop in the proportion of infants born before 37 weeks, from 12.7 percent to 12.3 percent
- A drop in births to adolescents, from 22.2 per 1,000 girls ages 15–17 to 21.7 per 1,000
- A rise in the rate of children from birth to 17 years of age covered by health insurance at some time during the year, from 89 percent to 90 percent
- A rise in the proportion of related children from birth to 17 years of age living in poverty, from 18 percent to 19 percent
- A drop in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living with at least one parent employed year round full time, from 77 percent to 75 percent
- A rise in the percentage of children from birth to 17 years of age living in food insecure homes, from 17 percent to 22 percent, the highest prevalence since monitoring began. The report defines food security as access at all times to enough food for active, healthy lives for all family members.
For the period 2007 to 2009:
- Eighth graders' average mathematics scale score increased, from 281 to 283,
- while fourth graders' scores were flat after rising for a number of years
- Eighth graders' average reading scale score increased, from 263 to 264,
- but fourth graders' scores were unchanged.
From 2008 to 2009:
- The proportion of youth ages 16–19 neither enrolled in school nor working increased from 8 percent to 9 percent.