New data indicators to watch as the pandemic unfolds for kids

The annual County Data Cards highlight 15 key indicators of child well-being that elected officials should track, and respond to, in their communities.

By: Whitney Tucker | May 2020

Post Author

Before COVID-19 struck, nearly half of children in North Carolina lived in a family that was struggling with poverty, according to new data NC Child is releasing today. Now, many more families are having a hard time meeting their children’s basic needs. 

The annual County Data Cards highlight 15 key indicators of child well-being that elected officials should track, and respond to, in their communities.

Children are quite resilient by nature. But when parents lose income or lose their jobs, as so many have recently, it can bring along a cascade of other traumatic events for children. Losing your home, skipping meals, or having a parent struggling with depression, can add up to serious long-term consequences for kids. 

State and local officials can do much to prevent long-term harm for kids by investing in the programs that are proven to insulate families against the harmful effects of poverty, such as Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, and early childhood programs.

These are a few of the benchmarks that North Carolina officials and decision-makers should be watching. 

Before the pandemic hit:

  • 1 in 5 NC children lived in households that struggled to put nutritious food on the table. Hunger is proving to be one of the most immediate threats to children’s health and well-being. Right now, emergency feeding sites are extremely important, but they’re not enough, and not sustainable. 
  • The infant mortality rate in 2018 was 6.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births statewide (down from 7.1 the year prior). While this new low is an important milestone for NC, mortality rates remain much higher among Black families and those with lower incomes. As many people have lost health insurance along with their jobs, gains in maternal and infant health could be in jeopardy.
  • Across the state, just over half (57%) of third-grade students were reading on grade level in 2018-19, In some NC counties that number was only 35-40%. Whether children are reading on grade level when they reach the third grade is an important predictor of future school success and lifetime earnings.

Renita Webb, a North Carolina educator, mother, and NC Child Parent Advisory Council member, understands the importance of using child-focused data to provide focused support where it’s needed most. 

“College readiness starts in kindergarten, not 9th grade,” says Renita. “If young students are falling behind in those critical years between kindergarten and 2nd grade, their opportunities for later in life are drastically diminished. Using this research, we can pinpoint where kids are off track in their early years, and target additional investments and support to ensure long-term success for our kids and the communities they live in.”

Click the button below to view complete Data Cards for all 100 counties, as well as data notes, sources, and graphics. Please share these with your team and other child advocates you know.

Research and data are part of NC Child’s core strategies to support kids and families. If you’re an advocate or decision-maker who has questions about this data, or would like additional support with technical assistance, navigating these data resources or understanding these key indicators, please reach out!

Support NC Child’s work with a donation today.