A new report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, explores the intersection of kids, race and opportunity. Last year, more children of color were born in the US than white children, yet their achievements and opportunities continue to fall short of their white peers. The report clearly identifies the racial achievement gap that exists, and provides valuable insight into how we can close that gap to allow all children to succeed.
The report begins by stating, “We want success for children in rural towns and urban communities across the nation because we understand that providing opportunity to all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, is essential to America’s prosperity.” Closing the racial achievement gap depends on understanding the obstacles that each child faces, especially those they face because of their race.
We now know that at least 1/3 of African American, Latino, and American Indian children live in a household with an income below the poverty line. Many children of color are also growing up in communities where unemployment and crime are higher, schools are poorer, access to capital, fresh produce, transit, and health care is limited, and family supports and services are fewer.
The ladder of opportunity young people of color are climbing is full of broken rungs and obstacles. Overly harsh school disciplinary policies trap youth of color in the juvenile justice system, and a disproportionate number are arrested compared to white youths. Young people of color also receive more severe sentencing for the same offenses, and there’s a greater likelihood that they will be tried as adults and incarcerated in adult prisons than whites for the same crime.
Once they make it through high school, many young people of color have aspirations to complete college, and to be the first in their family to do so. But again, they face additional road blocks, relying on under-resourced community colleges or taking on tremendous debt to achieve this important milestone. College is seen as a gateway to the middle class, but it is more expensive for those who have less and need to borrow more to get there.
The Race for Results report provides the data and statistics needed to implement promising, evidence-based programs focused on improving outcomes for children and youth of color. After-all, this isn’t “their” problem; it’s our problem. The report notes that McKinsey & Company researches estimated that if the United States had closed the racial achievement gap in 1998, the United States GDP would have been up to $525 billion higher. We can’t afford to wait as a growing majority of minority students falls behind.