January 25, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
New Report Says Conditions for Texas Children Endanger State's Economy
Declining outcomes for children threaten state's ability to compete and meet 21st Century challenges
AUSTIN – A new comprehensive report on the status of Texas children finds that, if the state fails to change course, what the governor is calling the "Texas Century” is likely to bring declining prosperity, skyrocketing health costs and a workforce unable to compete with those of other states. A Report on the Bottom Line: Conditions for Children and the Texas of Tomorrow draws on demographic forecasts and national and state data sources to support the finding that Texas is alone among states in its wide gulf between ability to deliver improvements for children and actual outcomes.
"By how our children are faring, one would think Texas is one of the nation's poorest states. We aren't yet, but continuing to neglect the needs of Texas children will soon make us one.” said Eileen Garcia, CEO of Texans Care for Children, the nonprofit policy organization behind A Report on the Bottom Line. "This legislative session provides a clear opportunity for us to start to right our course and prevent costly lost potential in the youngest Texans, beginning with our state's approach to services and education.”
Findings in A Report on the Bottom Line include:
- Texas children start life unfairly behind other American children: Children in Texas are almost twice as likely as other U.S. children to go without health insurance, two-thirds more likely to be born to a mother who didn't get adequate prenatal care and 50% more likely to be born to a teen mother. A Texas child is also significantly more likely to drop out of school, more than one-third more likely to grow up in poverty and one-third more likely not to receive needed mental health services.
- Inadequate state funding drives the state's poor outcomes for children – immigrants do not: Statistical analysis of different factors' predictive value in a state's conditions for children showed that education, health care access and levels of investment in public services are significantly linked to a state's overall child wellbeing. Nine out of the 10 states that share company with Texas for having the lowest per-capita taxes also rank among the nation's worst states for children. By contrast, Texas is the only state to have both high levels of child poverty and a high population of children in immigrant or illegal immigrant families.
- On multiple measures, Texas ranks worst in the nation for children: Texas ranks 50th among states in health care coverage for children; mental health services for children with diagnosed challenges; preventing childhood homelessness; preventing childhood food insecurity; and preventing obesity among adolescent girls. The state also has the most fatalities from child abuse or neglect among states and ranks 50th in per-capita spending on child abuse prevention.
A Report on the Bottom Line examines the effectiveness of state dollars spent on children today in five key areas—child protection, family financial security, child and maternal health, children's mental health and development, and juvenile justice—and examines disparities in outcomes for different groups of children. The report comes just days after Texas leaders announced plans to eliminate nearly $1 out of every $4 the state needs to maintain services and schools at current levels.
"If Texas fails to reverse current trends, the state is on course to pay a high price for inaction,” noted former state demographer Steve Murdock of Rice University. "Higher welfare and incarceration costs and lower levels of educational attainment and prosperity are what lie in the forecast today for Texas, if we fail to close the gaps facing different groups of Texas children. Our state's economic competitiveness hinges on preparing these children for college and for success, beginning in the very early years.”
A Report on the Bottom Line shows that bringing the state into line with the national average for just three indicators—child poverty, teen birth rates and high school completion—would result in $25.5 billion a year more for Texas, due to lower direct and indirect costs for the state.
A Report on the Bottom Line is available online at http://txchildren.org/Report. It is published by Texans Care for Children, the leader in policy advances for Texas children. Since 1985, the nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization has served as a voice for children, a source on children and a network for people who put kids first. Through policy analysis, statewide coalitions, grassroots campaigns and research, Texans Care improves conditions for children in the areas of health, mental health and development, poverty, child protection and juvenile justice.