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Indiana Needs to Improve Well-Being for Children of Color and Kids in Immigrant Families

Categories: After School Activity , Best Practices , Youth Serving Organizations


Read the full 2017 Race for Results report

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows Indiana must work harder to improve outcomes for African-American and Hispanic youth to ensure a successful future for the state and all Hoosiers. The 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children report scores states on a scale of one to 1,000 on how different racial/ethnic groups of children are progressing on key education, health and economic milestones. 

Indiana ranks 36th of 44 participating states when looking at how African-American youth fare, compared to being ranked 37th of all 50 states for white youth. The report shows similar disparities when focusing specifically on the more than 155,000 Hoosier children living in immigrant families.

“Our futures are all intertwined and each child represents boundless possibilities,” says Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. “For our state to reach its full potential, it is critical that individuals, communities and institutions from across Indiana come together to provide a supportive environment that promotes high-quality education, healthy development, and economic stability and opportunity for all children and families. This ensures that every Hoosier child can grow, develop and thrive in our state and beyond.”

When compared to Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, Indiana’s overall scores for each racial or ethnic group of youth —  African-American (318), Asian (780), Hispanic/Latino (424) and white (664) — places the Hoosier state in the middle of the pack for all racial/ethnic groups. Asian, Hispanic/Latino and white children fared the best in Illinois, while Kentucky had the highest overall score for African-American children among the five states. 


While Indiana typically scores above national averages in education, the data show not all students are reaching benchmarks commonly used to gauge educational progress, such as reading and math proficiency. About three-quarters of African-American (78 percent) and Hispanic/Latino (71 percent) fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, compared to 56 percent of white fourth-graders. Ninety percent of Indiana’s African-American eighth-graders and 85 percent of the state’s English Language Learners (ELL) are not proficient at math, compared to 55 percent of white eighth graders and 60 percent of those who are not ELL students. The data also show gaps in higher education. Seventy-nine percent of Hoosier African-Americans, ages 25 to 29, and 84 percent of Hispanic young adults have not completed at least an associate’s degree, compared to 61 percent of their white counterparts.  

“To set all our students up for success, we must focus on increasing access to high-quality, affordable early child care and education, as well as ensuring students are ready to continue their learning after high school, either through college or career training,” Silverman added. “These solutions are proven to deliver a high return on investment.” 

One positive indicator in the data shows that 55 percent of African-American children, ages three to five years old, are enrolled in either a nursery school, preschool or kindergarten program. This is the third-highest percentage among racial groups in the state, behind Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian children. 


In addition to significant gaps in educational achievement, minority Hoosier children are more likely to live in high-poverty areas. This contributes to the cycle of poverty and puts them at greater risk for negative outcomes. In Indiana, 72 percent of African-American and 67 percent of Hispanic youth live in low-income households, defined as having a household income of less than $49,200 a year for a family of four, compared to less than 40 percent of white and Asian children. Meanwhile, 59 percent of Indiana’s children in immigrant families live in low-income households, compared to 44 percent of children in U.S.-born families. 

Research shows that poverty can change the architecture of a child’s brain, affecting physical and social-emotional development.

“A child’s social and emotional health is the key to future success,” says Silverman. “If organizations, lawmakers and communities unite and build positive support systems for our children, studies have shown that we can mitigate some of the negative effects of poverty. Indiana can reach its full potential by ensuring that all of its children grow up healthy, educated and ready to fully participate in our shared prosperity.”