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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016

A toddler in a swing, two young children sitting outside a house, and a baby wearing sunglasses

This year's America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being continues more than a decade of dedication and collaboration by agencies across the Federal Government to advance our understanding of our Nation's children and what may be needed to bring them a better tomorrow. We hope you find this report useful. The Forum will be releasing its next full report in 2017.

Katherine K. Wallman, Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget


Each year since 1997, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published a report on the well-being of children and families. The Forum fosters coordination and collaboration among 23 federal agencies that produce or use statistical data on children and families, and seeks to improve federal data on children and families. The America's Children series provides accessible compendiums of indicators drawn across topics from the most reliable official statistics; it is designed to complement other more specialized, technical, or comprehensive reports produced by various Forum agencies. The America's Children series makes federal data on children and families available in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format in order to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and the public.

Pending data availability, the Forum updates all 41 indicators annually on its website ( and alternates publishing a detailed report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a summary version, America's Children in Brief, which highlights selected indicators. The data in this report come from a variety of sources—featuring both sample and universe surveys—often with different underlying populations, as appropriate for the topic. Indicators are chosen because they are easy to understand, are based on substantial research connecting them to child well-being, cut across important areas of children's lives, are measured regularly so that they can be updated and show trends over time, and represent large segments of the population rather than one particular group. These indicators span seven domains: Family and Social Environment, Economic Circumstances, Health Care, Physical Environment and Safety, Behavior, Education, and Health. To provide a more in-depth perspective across report domains, this year's America's Children in Brief highlights selected indicators by race and ethnicity.

This report reveals that the adolescent birth rate declined across all race and Hispanic origin groups and the rate of immediate college enrollment increased among White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; and Hispanic high school completers. Poverty rates and percentages of children living in food-insecure homes remain higher for Black, non-Hispanic and Hispanic children than for their White, non-Hispanic counterparts. New this year is a supplemental poverty measure for White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; and Asian, non-Hispanic children. The Brief concludes with its usual At a Glance summary table displaying the most recent data for all 41 indicators.

For Further Information

The Forum's website ( provides additional information, including:

  • Detailed data, including trend data, for indicators discussed in this Brief as well as other America's Children indicators not discussed here.
  • Data source descriptions and agency contact information.
  • America's Children reports from 1997 to the present and other Forum reports.
  • Links to Forum agencies, their online data tools, and various international data sources.
  • Forum news and information on the Forum's overall structure and organization.

Report Coverage

As usual, this year's America's Children in Brief highlights selected indicators; however, in addition, this Brief looks at these indicators by race and ethnicity. This focused perspective gives the reader both a snapshot of the overall well-being of America's Children and a closer look at the differences among the country's race and Hispanic origin groups. The observed differences are not simply a result of the growing demographic diversity of the U.S. population in general and of children in particular; they also reflect the complex interactions among socioeconomic factors, regional influences, and personal circumstances.

Measuring Race and Ethnicity

The Forum strives to consistently report racial and ethnic data across indicators for clarity and continuity. However, data sources in America's Children in Brief reflect a variety of classifications and methodologies. In 1997, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued revised standards for data on race and ethnicity ( The number of racial categories expanded from four (White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Asian or Pacific Islander) to five (White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander). Respondents were also given the opportunity to select multiple races. The standards continued to require data on ethnicity in two categories: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino.

The data sources used in this report implemented these revised standards at different times, and some data sources can report more detailed data on race and ethnicity than others. Nevertheless, the 1997 OMB standards are used in this report wherever feasible. Where possible, data on children from racial groups that represent smaller percentages of the population are shown throughout the report. Where applicable and based on data availability, indicators show data trends over time as well as the most recent year of data.

Measuring Poverty

Many indicators in this report include data tabulated by family income or poverty status. Most of these poverty calculations are based on OMB's Statistical Policy Directive 14, the official poverty measurement standard for the United States. A family is considered to be living below the poverty level if its before-tax cash income is below a defined level of need called a poverty threshold. Poverty thresholds are updated annually and vary based on family size and composition. Wherever feasible, indicators present data by poverty status, using the following categories: families with incomes less than 100 percent of the poverty threshold, families with incomes between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty threshold (low income), and families with incomes at 200 percent or more of the poverty threshold (medium and high income). The Forum continues to work on reporting consistent data on family income and poverty status across indicators for clarity and continuity.

One indicator includes the supplemental poverty measure (SPM) officially introduced by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011. The SPM does not replace the official poverty measure but serves as an additional indicator of economic well-being and provides a deeper understanding of economic conditions and policy effects. The SPM creates a more complex statistical picture, incorporating additional items such as tax payments, work expenses, and medical out-of-pocket expenditures in its family resource estimates. The resource estimates also take into account the value of noncash benefits including nutritional, energy, and housing assistance.