Updated: December 3, 2023
The educational and economic well-being of Hawaiʻi’s children and youth ranks in the lowest third of states, according to the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Hawaiʻi ranks 22nd in overall children’s well-being in the Data Book, which tracks 16 indicators in four categories. The state ranked 34th in economic well-being, 35th in education, fifth in health and 15th in family and community context.
Hawaiʻi ranks in the bottom 10 states for several key measures, according to the Data Book:
- 111,000 children lived in families that spent more than 30% of their income on housing, which is considered a high cost burden. This equates to 37% of all children in the state, ranking Hawaiʻi 48th.
- 72% of Hawai‘i eighth-graders scored below proficient math levels, ranking 42nd in the nation.
- Approximately 5,000 teenagers between ages 16 and 19, or 9% of that population, didn’t attend school or work — ranking the state 43rd.
The Data Book uses the latest available figures, some of which were collected before the pandemic, according to a press release from Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, Hawaiʻi’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
“Years of public underinvestment in Hawaiʻi’s keiki have led to these disturbing statistics, which should be a wake-up call to everyone who cares about the future of our state,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network. “The upcoming election is a chance for voters to ask candidates how they’re going to make the profound changes our keiki need and deserve.”
While children and youth across the country have suffered trauma and loss due to the pandemic, Hawai‘i’s keiki have disproportionately felt the pandemic’s economic effects, with the state facing some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
The Hawaiʻi findings by the Data Book state 2,200 more children and youth in Hawai‘i have struggled with anxiety and depression in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, than in 2016. It’s an increase of 23%.
Economic and housing instability often lead to anxiety and stress, undermining the mental health of children and youth. Children’s advocates, including Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network and the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family, say these findings raise alarms and underscore the need for greater funding for mental health services, public education and social programs that support children and families.
“Compared to other states, Hawaiʻi ranks in the bottom third in the education domain,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, junior specialist at the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family. “Policymakers have recently made investments to expand access to early learning and to address the impact of the pandemic on learning loss, but there is still room for improvement, and these investments must continue in the years ahead so that we can provide this generation what they need to lead the state.”
One area in which Hawaiʻi fares particularly well is in children’s health, according to the Data Book. The state has the second-lowest death rate for children and teenagers and the fourth-highest percentage of children with health insurance.
“We know what works for keiki: providing quality, universal early care and learning, enacting paid family and sick leave, adopting student-centered budgeting, and ensuring economic security for families,” Zysman said. “Next year, the Legislature will have the opportunity to pass these priorities, putting children and families first and closing long-standing racial disparities.”
For more information, go the Hawaiʻi state profile at HCAN’s website.
A dashboard of selected Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data for Hawaiʻi between April 2020 and March 2021 is available at www.hawaii-can.org/covid19_dashboard.