Rhode Island Kids Count, the state’s leading child advocacy organization, is out with its 2022 fact book about the financial, emotional, medical, and educational conditions of the 210,000 kids and teens under the age of 18 in our state.
The organization is holding its annual event (on Zoom again this year) at 9 a.m., but here’s a sneak peek at some of the most significant findings.
The child population is plummeting
The number of children under the age of 18 who live in Rhode Island has fallen nearly 15 percent since 2010, down to 209,785. In four cities and towns (Bristol, Charlestown, Narragansett, and Westerly), the under-18 population is down at least 20 percent during that same period, and the only places with at least 5 percent growth are New Shoreham and North Providence. The decline is a concerning trend that appears likely to increase, since the number of babies born in R.I. has been dropping for 20 years.
Lots of kids are living in poverty
Citing Census data, Kids Count reports that 16 percent of children under the age of 18 were living in poverty between 2016 and 2020, which means household income was less than $21,831 in a family of three with two children, or less than $27,479 in a family of four with two children. Of course, that’s that federal poverty line, and Kids Count rightly notes that a family likely needs to earn at least twice those amounts to be able to afford basic living expenses in Rhode Island. Of the children living in poverty, 64 percent were in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket.
Many moms don’t have a diploma
Between 2016 and 2020 in those four cities (Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket), 21 percent of children were born to mothers who had less than a high school diploma. For the state overall, roughly 12 percent of children were born to moms who hadn’t yet earned a diploma.
Many kids are overweight or obese
Rhode Island ranks No. 35 in the country (and worst in New England) for the percent of children between ages 10 and 17 who are overweight or obese, at 34 percent. In Central Falls, 52 percent of children between ages 2 and 17 are considered overweight or obese, followed by Woonsocket at 48 percent. The fear among doctors is that being overweight as a child could lead to lifelong health complications.
There are few child and teen deaths
Let’s end with slightly better news. Rhode Island ranked No. 1 in the country for fewest deaths among children between ages 1 and 19, with 15 per 100,000. By comparison, the national average was 25 deaths per 100,000.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.
Dan McGowan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.