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A new report released on Wednesday shows that persistent disparities are hindering American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children across the United States.

The findings come from the latest edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual “Race for Results” study, which examines data on well-being and milestones from birth to early adulthood.  

“We need chil­dren of every race and eth­nic­i­ty to grow up ready to pro­vide the tal­ent, intel­lect and hard work that will make our coun­try strong and pros­per­ous,” Leslie Boissiere, vice pres­i­dent of exter­nal affairs at the Casey Foun­da­tion, said in a press release. ​“This coun­try of great abun­dance, cre­ativ­i­ty and pos­si­bil­i­ty can, and must, make bet­ter pol­i­cy choic­es to elim­i­nate the bar­ri­ers kids face.”

The report presents a single composite score ranging from 0 to 1,000 across 12 key well-being indicators to compare across states and racial and ethnic groups. According to the report, AI/AN (418) have some of the lowest index scores. 

While there were gains among every demographic group in poverty indicators, more than half of AI/AN (57%) kids currently live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. 

The report also found that reading and math scores dropped during the pandemic, and in 2022, only a third of all fourth graders were proficient in reading, while approximately one in six AI/AN (18 percent) kids were proficient in reading. 

 AI/AN children are relatively better off in states as disparate as Alabama (683), New Jersey (676), Texas (666), Kansas (659), and Arkansas (616), according to the report.  

The well-being of AI/AN children differs considerably based on Tribal affiliation, according to the report. Only 36% of Pueblo children lived in two-parent households in 2017–2021, compared to 64% of Choctaw children. Data also shows that more than half of Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek children live in families with incomes at or above 200% of poverty, compared with 28% of Apache children.

The report included several recommendations for improving outcomes for children, including expanding the federal child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, considering baby bonds and children’s savings accounts, expanding Medicaid access, and creating targeted programs and policies. 

 “Cer­tain key moments in a young person’s life are piv­otal to ensur­ing they achieve their dreams and good pub­lic pol­i­cy can affect the out­comes at these moments, as we saw with the expan­sion of the child tax cred­it,” Boissiere said in a press release. 

“When we effec­tive­ly address the needs of young peo­ple, they can ful­fill their poten­tial, thrive and strength­en our com­mu­ni­ties in the future.” 

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
About The Author
Kaili Berg
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Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.