Indicators by Topic Area

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The latest national trends and research on over 100 key indicators

The DataBank delivers continuously updated trend data, in plain language, with the latest national estimates for all indicators, along with accessible color graphics and tables. DataBank estimates come from reliable sources including federal reports and websites.

Indicators by Topic Area

Child Welfare Indicators

Child Trends conducts research, analyzes data, and evaluates programs in virtually every area in the child welfare field. Our areas of expertise include prevention of maltreatment, child protection, court oversight, foster care, kinship care, adoption, and youth leaving care. We work closely with practitioners and policymakers who rely on our research and advice to make positive change in child welfare systems.

Child Trends recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids initiative, a program developed to promote adoption of children from foster care. In addition, our child welfare team is evaluating family finding programs across the country. We also conduct biennial state surveys examining the funding streams that support child welfare services.

Featured Indicator
Foster Care

In 2012, 397,000 children were in foster care, a 30 percent decline from the 1999 peak of 567,000, and a number lower than any seen in any of the past 25 years. In 2014, the number had increased to 415,000.

Child Well-Being Indicators

From our start more than 30 years ago, Child Trends has studied and reported on the well-being of children and youth. Our work in this area influences policies and practices in the U.S. and around the world. For us, child well-being is multi-dimensional and best measured over time. We look at positive and negative indicators that assess well-being across outcomes, behaviors and processes. We also review indicators that cover children of all ages from birth to their transition to adulthood. Our aim is to provide child well-being indicators that are easily and readily understood by policymakers, practitioners, and the public.

You can search our DataBank by topic and by the stages of children’s lives to examine trends and statistics measuring child well-being.

Featured Indicator
Measures of Flourishing

Among the characteristics associated with optimal development are positive relationships, curiosity, interest and persistence in learning, and resilience. Children and youth who are female, white, or more affluent more frequently demonstrate these qualities, according to their parents.

Demographics Indicators

Demographic indicators describe the essential structural features of children’s experience. The DataBank is user-friendly and directed to policymakers, program providers, and funders.

Featured Indicator
Racial and Ethnic Composition of the Child Population

Between 1980 and 2015, the percentage of children in the United States who are Hispanic nearly tripled, from 9 to 25 percent. Their share is projected to increase to more than one-quarter (26 percent) of the child population by 2020.

Early Childhood Development Indicators

Child Trends researchers study young children from birth through early elementary school with a focus on understanding how the experiences children have across different settings promote optimal development and well-being. Our team works with the federal government, state agencies, communities, and foundations on research, evaluation, and policy projects that address important issues for policymakers, practitioners, and families. We are skilled at developing resources and reports that address complex topics in easy-to-understand terms. We are strong thought partners in addressing a range of early childhood issues.

Much of our work fits into five broad categories.

Featured Indicator
Early School Readiness

Compared with white or black children, Hispanic children are less likely to be able to recognize the letters of the alphabet, count to 20 or higher, or write their names before they start kindergarten. Black children are similar to white children on these measures, but are more likely than white children to be reading words in books.

Education Indicators

Child Trends’ education research strives to identify the educational policies, programs, and structures that create the positive conditions for learning that help youth flourish in primary and secondary school, college, career, and beyond.  Areas of research expertise include: social and emotional learning and non-academic competencies; health and nutrition policies; college and workplace readiness; school climate and discipline; bullying; integrated student services; charter schools; family strengths and involvement in education; international comparisons; character education; dropout prevention and recovery; science, technology, engineering, and math education (STEM); and afterschool and summer learning. We offer technical assistance (including survey, measure, and indicator development, as well as strategic planning around school initiatives), research syntheses, data and policy analysis, training, program evaluation, and reviews of best practices to identify what works and what doesn’t.

Featured Indicator
Unsafe At School

Fewer than one in twenty-five adolescents feared attack at school, or on the way to and from school, in 2013, compared with about one in nine in 1995.

Health Indicators

Child Trends researchers study the physical and mental health of children and adolescents. Our staff conduct literature reviews, provide training and technical assistance and analyze datasets pertaining to health and access to health care. Our research informs program providers and policymakers developing strategies for addressing the health needs of children.

Featured Indicator

Although changes in the recommendations over time make it difficult to measure trends, rates of full immunization of two-year-olds have increased slightly, standing at 78 percent in 2014.

Indicators Indicators

Child Trends develops and promotes indicators of child well-being used by researchers and policymakers to better understand children and youth and provide the means for assessing our shared accountability, as a nation, for their welfare. The Child Trends DataBank examines and monitors more than 100 indicators that focus on both risks and positive development for children. We also conduct in-depth reviews of subpopulations of children and youth – for example, children in adoptive families, infants and toddlers, and children in a particular region or jurisdiction.

For Venture Philanthropy Partners, Child Trends reported on the well-being of children and youth in the Washington, D.C. metro region.  Capital Kids: Shared Responsibility, Shared Future.

Featured Indicator
Overweight Children and Youth

The proportion of U.S. adolescents who are obese continued to increase in 2011-12, while the proportion among younger children remained the same or decreased. More than one in five adolescents, and one in six elementary-school-aged children, were obese, as was more than one in twelve preschoolers.

International Indicators

Child Trends’ international work focuses on cross-national comparisons of child and family well-being. We produce international comparison reports, such as the World Family Map, develop international surveys, analyze international data on children and families, and collaborate with others to move the field toward a global consensus around indicator frameworks, surveys, best practices, and what works to improve child and family well-being globally. We adapt measures to specific contexts, develop global conceptual frameworks and indicators of well-being, synthesize cross-national research, monitor and evaluate projects, and provide technical assistance and consultation to nations and international non-governmental organizations on all of these topics.  We collaborate with organizations and universities in many regions of the world.

Featured Indicator
Adopted Children

Overall, adopted children in the U.S. fare about as well as children in the general population.  However, many adopted children bring to their new families a history of adverse early experiences that may make them more vulnerable to developmental risks.

Marriage and Cohabitation Indicators

Today’s children are born into and grow up in many different types of families.  For example, four in ten babies in the U.S. are born to unmarried parents – either single or cohabiting. Child Trends tracks and analyzes the changes taking place in the structure of the American family over recent decades and how these changes impact children. We review the research literature, examine trends in the data, conduct qualitative studies, and evaluate programs intended to promote and support healthy relationships within and outside of marriage.

Featured Indicator
Births to Unmarried Women

After years of growth, the proportion of births that are to unmarried women has leveled off, and since 2009 has been at just over 40 percent.

Parenting Indicators

Child Trends investigates family relationships that influence a child’s development from birth through the transition to adulthood. We look at all family and household structures from children living with two parents, single parents, extended family members, and with foster and adoptive parents. We also study the role of fathers in children’s development and ways to improve father engagement among diverse groups of fathers. We offer expertise in quantitative and qualitative research, program evaluation, policy design, and technical assistance.

Featured Indicator
Parental Involvement in Schools

The percentage of students whose parents reported involvement in their schools rose significantly between 1999 and 2007 across several measures, including attendance at a general meeting, a meeting with a teacher, or a school event, and volunteering or serving on a committee. However, these proportions fell or remained the same in 2012.

Positive Indicators Indicators

Child Trends is a leader in long-term efforts to conceptualize and measure positive indicators for children and adolescents. Child Trends has developed rigorous national indicators of flourishing among children and youth for inclusion in national surveys, research studies, and program evaluations. Read about our Positive Indicators Project.

Featured Indicator
Secure Parental Employment

As of 2013, more than one in four children (26 percent) did not have at least one resident parent employed full-time, year-round. Among children younger than six, three in ten (30 percent) were without secure parental employment and, of children in families headed by single mothers, more than half (58 percent).

Poverty Indicators

Poverty poses both immediate and long-term threats to children’s development. Child Trends monitors the prevalence of child poverty over time, and its impact on child outcomes. In all of our research areas, from early childhood to youth development, we examine differences in child well-being by family income. We also evaluate the effects of programs and policies aimed at children and families in poverty.

Our DataBank provides annual updates on the number and percent of children living under key poverty thresholds.

Featured Indicator
Food Insecurity

In 2013, more than one in five U.S. children (21 percent) lived in households that were food-insecure at some point during the year, and 1.0 percent experienced the most severe level of need, where food intake is reduced and regular eating patterns are disrupted.

Social-Emotional Development Indicators

Children’s social and emotional skills, such as persistence and the ability to make friends, are increasingly recognized as central to their health, happiness, and achievement in school, and eventually in the workplace, and their well-being as adults. Child Trends’ research on social-emotional learning encompasses infancy through young adulthood. We bring together experts in early childhood development, education, youth development, and more, to work together to investigate and communicate the foundational elements around social-emotional competencies and skill building.

Featured Indicator
Measures of Flourishing

Among the characteristics associated with optimal development are positive relationships, curiosity, interest and persistence in learning, and resilience. Children and youth who are female, white, or more affluent more frequently demonstrate these qualities, according to their parents.

Teen Pregnancy/Reproductive Health Indicators

Child Trends examines sexual activity, contraceptive use, and fertility, focusing particularly on teens and young adults. Our research informs program providers and policymakers on strategies to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections, and to promote healthy relationships. We collect and analyze data about teens and young adults, track trends, evaluate programs, and design and test new interventions and measures.

Featured Indicator
Teen Pregnancy

The U.S. rate of teen pregnancy is at an historic low. Pregnancy rates among adolescent females fell steadily between 1990 and 2005, and, while there was a slight rise between 2006 and 2007, subsequent data through 2011 indicate a return to the earlier trend.

Youth Development Indicators

Child Trends brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to its studies of adolescents and young adults and the programs that serve them. We conduct national and local evaluations of after-school and prevention programs (see brief about Abriendo Puertas). These evaluations include not only impact evaluations to examine whether programs are effective, but also implementation evaluations to examine how they work. We work with programs and funders to ensure that programs are ready for evaluation by helping develop logic models, conduct needs assessments, and develop and refine their performance management capacities. A critical part of our work is research to understand and measure adolescent and young adult well-being for national studies and evaluations (for example, the Positive Indicators Project).

We also compile evaluations by researchers from around the world and synthesize these studies to identify effective (and ineffective) programs and practices. The information is widely disseminated in clear language via research briefs, policy briefings, webinars and through technical assistance to practitioners and local communities.

Featured Indicator
Home Computer Access and Internet Use

In 2013, almost six out of ten children, ages three to 17 (57 percent), used the Internet at home, nearly six times as many as in 1997 (11 percent). Seventy-nine percent had a computer at home, up from 15 percent in 1984.

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