From birth, the average black child in America is at a relative disadvantage, according to an Annie E. Casey Foundation study released Tuesday.
While more than 92 percent of white, Latino, American-Indian and Asian and Pacific Islander babies are born at normal birth weight, that number for African-Americans only reaches into the high-80s. The pattern of disadvantage for black children continues into elementary school and through high school in the form of standardized testing scores and high school graduation rates. Only 66 percent of African-Americans graduate from high school on time, while more than 90 percent of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders do.
As America becomes increasingly diverse, the Casey Foundation report looked at how five racial groups fare against a dozen milestones in stages of life from birth to adulthood, including the number of eighth-graders with math proficiency and the number of young adults who are in school or working. The report, titled the Race for Results, finds that while no group perfectly meets every milestone, Asian-Americans fare the best and African-Americans do the worst.
“We found that the gaps sort of start out relatively small and get bigger over time,” Laura Speer, Casey Foundation associate director of policy reform and advocacy, told The Huffington Post over the phone. “Look at the early childhood measures: The gaps between African-Americans, Latinos, whites are relatively small. But in the early childhood years, even a small gap can have a big impact in the long run.”
The report measures each group's success toward the milestones on a 1,000 point-scale. Asian-Americans and whites scored best, with 776 and 704 respectively. American-Indians and African-Americans, on the other hand, scored in the 300s. Gaps between groups’ achievements start small in early childhood milestones, like percentages of babies born at normal birth weight, and children enrolled in pre-K, but the differences widen in neighborhood milestones, like percentages of children living in low-poverty areas.
The report uses data from the latest census that shows differences between states. American Indians in Texas and California, for example, appear to be faring significantly better than American Indians in Montana and North Dakota, according to the report. African-Americans face the greatest barriers in Michigan, Wisconsin and Mississippi, the report says.
The report comes after a recent government study found that students of color are routinely discriminated against in school, with harsher discipline and less access to the best teachers than their white peers.
The Casey Foundation suggests further study to pinpoint what's causing the racial disparities and programs to eliminate them.
"Too often, the resources of public systems serving children and families are spent on programs that lack evidence and without input from the families and communities they are intended to serve,” the report says.
Speer said several Obama administration initiatives will help, including the My Brother’s Keeper, designed to increase opportunity for boys and men of color.
“The kids of color in our country are absolutely critical to the future success of the United States,” Speer said. “They are going to be the majority of our work force and we can’t afford to lose the talent they have and could have in the future behind. We need them to be successful.”