Newly released U.S. Census data shows that 41% of Nebraska children ages 0-5 face risk factors that threaten their ability to thrive in school and beyond. These children live in every county in the state, and more than 50% of them reside in rural Nebraska.
On the day children arrive at kindergarten for the first time, the nature and quality of their earliest learning experiences already have impacted their language proficiency and ability to interact well with others, two recognized indicators of children’s readiness to thrive in school. Those with healthy early childhood experiences have higher high school graduation rates, higher post-secondary attainment, increased likelihood of gainful employment and higher median earnings.
The information depicted in this map can help us make strategic investments to positively alter the trajectory of at-risk children’s lives and set them on a path to becoming successful students and adults.
To create this map, we used the same definition of “at risk” that the Nebraska Department of Education has used for decades to describe common characteristics of children who encounter the greatest struggles succeeding in the classroom. This definition includes four risk factors. To arrive at an unduplicated figure, we count only the number of children 0-5 who are subject to the first risk factor: living in households with income below 185% of the poverty line. Children who are vulnerable to the other three risk factors likely fall into the first.
To calculate the percentage of children 0-5 at risk, the number of children 0-5 at risk was divided by the total number of children 0-5.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Fact Finder. 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. “Age by ratio of income to poverty level in the past 12 months.”