Isles’ teen and infant death rates decrease
Among the study's "good-news" findings is a lower percentage of idle Hawaii teens
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Hawaii teens are not as idle as they were a few years ago. The percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds not in school or working plunged 40 percent from 2000 to 2006, KIDS COUNT reports.
That was the most dramatic change for Hawaii in the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2008 state-by-state comparison of indicators for the well-being of America's children.
Laura Beavers, coordinator of the national project, pointed in a telephone interview to several "good-news stories" for Hawaii: a significant decline in the infant mortality rate and a drop in the child poverty rate.
Hawaii also was No. 1 in the nation for the lowest teen death rate and one of the top 10 states in four other areas.
But it did worse from 2000 to 2005 or 2006 in the percentages of low birth-weight babies, the child death rate (ages 1 to 14), high school teen dropouts and children in single-parent families.
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Hawaii's teen death rate is the lowest in the nation, and infant mortality has decreased significantly, a new study shows.
But the state slipped to 13th from 11th place for overall well-being of children.
The 2008 KIDS COUNT report, released yesterday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said Hawaii improved since 2000 in six of 10 measures affecting child well-being.
"A couple of things jump off the page for me with Hawaii," Laura Beavers, KIDS COUNT project coordinator, said in a telephone interview from the foundation in Washington, D.C.
One was "a pretty substantial decline in the infant mortality rate in Hawaii from 2000 to 2006, which is a good-news story," she said.
Another was a drop to 11 percent from 13 percent in Hawaii's child poverty rate, which climbed nationally, she said.
"Hawaii has the third-lowest child poverty rate. However, I think most people in Hawaii would agree $20,000 doesn't go very far for a four-member family in Hawaii," she said, noting that is the Census Bureau's calculation for a four-member family in poverty.
"It's tough for this amount of money to go very far anywhere in the United States, but in Hawaii it's a laughable amount of money for a family of four," Beavers said, referring to the high cost of living.
Kids Count ranked Hawaii in the top 10 states in five areas measured. Besides the fewest teen deaths and third-lowest place in child poverty, it was sixth lowest in the child death rate and ninth lowest in both children in single-parent families and the percentage of teens not attending school or working (idle teens).
Hawaii lost ground in four areas: the percentage of low birth-weight babies, child deaths (ages 1 to 14), the percentage of high school dropouts ages 16 to 19, and percentage of children in single-parent families.
The most significant improvement here was a 40 percent drop in teens (ages 16 to 19) not going to school and not working -- from 10 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2006.
The percentage of high school dropouts increased to 6 percent in 2006 from 5 percent in 2000. But the national rate was higher, at 7 percent, and Hawaii ranked 15th in the country in this area.
A 10 percent decrease occurred in the death rate for Hawaii teens ages 15 to 19, from 41 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2000 to 37 deaths in 2005. The national rate fell from 67 deaths to 65 per 100,000 teens in that period.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths, Beaver said. "In Hawaii, kids are less likely to be in cars, behind the wheel, than in other places, such as big rural states."
Infant mortality decreased 20 percent, from 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 6.5 deaths in 2005.
A marked decrease also occurred in teen births (ages 15 to 19), from 46 births per 1,000 females in 2000 to 36 in 2005.
National trends reflect a drop-off in the economy since the late 1990s and loss of support in many states for families because of budget cuts, Beaver said.
"I feel very pessimistic having these conversations. It's only going to get worse," she added.
The Kids Count data book focuses on the need for new approaches to reduce unnecessary detention and incarceration of youths. It includes an essay, "A Road Map for Juvenile Justice Reform," by Douglas Nelson, Casey Foundation president and chief executive officer.
"Our nation's juvenile justice systems are poised for a fundamental, urgently needed transformation -- and not a moment too soon," he said.
"Our juvenile justice systems have become littered with poorly conceived strategies that often increase crime, endanger young people and damage their future prospects, waste billions of taxpayer dollars and violate our deepest-held principles about equal justice under the law," he said.
Hawaii's estimated daily count of juveniles in custody in 2006 was 123, the report said, a rate of 36 per 100,000 youth ages 10 to 15, compared with a national rate of 125 per 100,000 youth.
"Alternatives will make a difference," Beaver said. "Hawaii is definitely on the good side of this indicator."