Dayton Daily News
Minority, Appalachian kids at high risk of poverty
Young children of color or who live in rural Appalachia are more at risk of starting behind — and staying behind, well into adulthood — than their more-affluent peers elsewhere in Ohio, a new report shows.
Groundwork Ohio released the Ohio Early Childhood Race & Rural Equity Report 2018 on Wednesday. Shannon Jones, executive director of the nonpartisan child-advocacy organization, said it was the most-comprehensive early childhood report in the state’s history.
The report is part of a two-year, $500,000 project funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, to examine how effective Ohio’s education and child health systems are at addressing the needs of the state’s most at-risk children, specifically children of color and children living in rural Appalachia.
The report used statewide and regional data collected from multiple state agencies to analyze 26 measures, ranging from prenatal care to post-secondary educational attainment.
The data analysis, from birth to career-readiness, shows that where children begin their lives determines where they land as adults, Jones said. For example, only about 40 percent of Ohio children enter kindergarten ready to learn, and only 43 percent of Ohio’s workers have a post-secondary degree or a credential leading to a job that’s currently available in the state. Those two statistics are telling and not a coincidence, Jones said.
If more Ohio children received quality early-childhood programs from infancy through age 4, more would likely go on to higher education, Jones said.
“Where kids start is kind of where they end up in Ohio,” she said.
Among the findings:
■ Gaps between poor children and their higher-income peers emerge much earlier than state and federal policy recognizes and persist long into adulthood.
■ Race and rural geography play a determinative role in these gaps. African-American children have the widest gap compared to their white peers, and the gap widens as they grow up, meaning they fall further and further behind. Also, concentrated poverty in Ohio’s rural Appalachian region is uniquely difficult to overcome compared with metropolitan areas.
■ One in 4 children under age 6 live in poverty in Ohio (26.4 percent); in the Appalachian region, nearly 1 in 3 children under age 6 live in poverty (30.3 percent).
The sheer volume of measures in which these early gaps emerge should serve as a call to policymakers that more must be done, Jones said.