July 16, 2004 -- Fewer teen births, fewer violent crimes, and fewer kids living in poverty -- they're all signs that life for America's kids is improving, according to new report. However, far too many kids are becoming obese.
The report, produced by the Forum on Child and Family Statistics, provides a snapshot of various indicators of children's well-being in 2001.
- 15% of children ages 6 to 18 are overweight, compared with 6% in 1976-1980.
- 24% of black girls and 29% of Mexican-American boys were overweight, the highest numbers among racial, ethnic, and sex groups.
- 88% of children are covered by health insurance, maintaining the all-time high that was attained in 2000.
- Seven infants deaths per 1,000 births occurred in 2000, compared with 11 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1983; black babies continue to have the highest infant death rates.
- Teen deaths declined throughout the 1990s, from 89 deaths per 100,000 in 1991 to an all-time low of 67 deaths per 100,000 in 2000.
- Teen births have also declined to 25 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-17, the lowest rate ever recorded.
- The decrease in teen births was especially impressive among black teens, dropping to 45 births per 1,000 in 2001 from a previous level of 86 births per 1,000 girls age 15-17.
- Significantly fewer teens are smoking: 10% of 10th graders and 17% of 12th graders reported smoking daily in the previous 30 days.
- There was no significant change in alcohol drinking. Overall, 12% of eighth graders and 29% of 12th graders were drinking alcohol.
- There was also no significant change in illegal drug use -- 21% of 10th graders were using illegal drugs.
However, children are still living in poverty and inadequate housing. According to the report, 36% of U.S. households with children had one or more of the following three housing problems in 2001: physically inadequate housing, crowded housing, or housing that cost more than 30% of the household income. Sixteen percent are living in poverty, compared with 22% in 1993; in 2000, 19% were living in crowded housing, compared with 16% a decade earlier, the report said.