This time of year, the Indianapolis-based Indiana Youth Institute (IYI) releases its Kids Count Data Book, a detailed look at a mountain of statistics reflecting the lives of young Hoosiers.
It reveals opportunities and achievement gaps among students, signaling where work on behalf of Indiana’s children should focus. It also illustrates the often disproportionate and disparate outcomes for historically marginalized youth: racial/ethnic minorities, low-income youth, LGBTQ+, youth with disabilities, and immigrant youth.
In a statewide series of presentations and conversations called State of the Child, IYI’s data team provides a more nuanced understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing Indiana’s children.
The beginning of the State of Childhood presentations each year is at the Indiana Statehouse, arming legislators, policymakers, and youth-serving organizations with unbiased, disaggregated youth-focused data. It is often this level of detail that informs the state’s legislative agenda when it comes to youth.
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This year’s Statehouse State of the Child was held on March 15th. Look here to find a State of the Child presentation in your area. They run about two hours, but each location varies.
There is a wider audience that needs to hear this information. They are moms and dads. Teachers and mentors. They are entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs. They are babysitters and little league coaches.
We all need to know where we stand and what is at stake.
Indiana ranks 28th in the country in measures of child well-being. Other key data in IYI’s Indiana Kids Count Data Book:
- Indiana ranks second among neighboring states for overall children’s well-being. Illinois is ranked 23rdrdMichigan is 32 years oldnaOhio is 31 years oldst and Kentucky ranks 37thth.
- Education is Indiana’s highest ranking domain at 17th in the country. Compared to the 2008-12 measures, Indiana has more children in school and more fourth-graders proficient in reading.
- Indiana ranks 31stst in the country on health measures with infant and adolescent mortality rates per 100,000 inhabitants and the percentage of children aged 10-17 who are obese or overweight increasing compared to the last comparable period.
At first glance, the data is overwhelming and daunting. But there are areas for improvement.
- There are more children with health insurance – 94% compared to 91% – than children in 2008-2012.
- We’re up slightly in graduation rates; 86.6% of Hoosier high school students graduated on time in 2021 and 45.3% of Indiana undergraduate students at a public institution graduated on time, an increase of nearly 1 % compared to 2020.
- In 2021, the ratio of people to a mental health provider was 560:1, a decrease of 36 people from 2020.
Reliable data is also what can inform local communities and young champions where to spend their time and energy, their attention and their financial clout.
IYI also provides a county-by-county dashboard of data if you want where your community rates, relative to the state and its neighbors. The complete child count data book and county-by-county dashboard are available at iyi.org.
At Muncie, we leaned towards early childhood education and third grade reading level. We have a dynamic and growing participation in cradle-to-career elevation initiatives and collective impact work.
In addition to using key data points to help inform important youth work across the state, IYI is a leading advocate and voice for the state’s youth worker sector. These are the first responders for today’s youth: the staff at your boys’ and girls’ clubs, YMCAs, schools, and small after-school-focused nonprofits.
IYI provides innovative education, critical data, and capacity-building resources, striving to increase the well-being of all children.
This is the important work that we all need to understand, embrace and help do.
Juli Metzger serves on the board of trustees of the Indiana Youth Institute and facilitates Muncie’s State of the Child. She was an editor at the Indianapolis Star and an associate professor at Ball State University’s School of Journalism.