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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2018

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 2019.

Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician, U.S. Office of Management and Budget


The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (Forum) was chartered in 1997 by the authority of Executive Order No. 13045. The Forum fosters collaboration among 23 Federal agencies that (1) produce and/or use statistical data on children,1 and (2) seek to improve Federal data on those children. Each year, the Forum publishes a report on the well-being of children. This series of reports, entitled America's Children, provides accessible compilations of well-being indicators drawn from the most reliable Federal statistics. A goal of the series is to make Federal data on children available in a nontechnical, easy-to-use format to stimulate discussion among data providers, policymakers, and the public. The Forum alternates publishing a detailed report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, with a shorter report, America's Children in Brief. In some years, America's Children in Brief  highlights selected indicators while other editions focus on a particular topic and measures of child well-being not featured in the detailed report. America's Children in Brief, 2018 describes selected characteristics of children whose well-being may be at highest risk.

Conceptual Framework for Key National Indicators

The Forum has identified 41 key national indicators collected by Federal agencies that describe the well-being of children. The indicators are updated annually on the Forum's website (, pending data availability. These indicators span seven domains: Family and Social Environment, Economic Circumstances, Health Care, Physical Environment and Safety, Behavior, Education, and Health. In addition, they must meet the following criteria:

  • Easy to understand by broad audiences;
  • Objectively based on reliable data with substantive research connecting them to child well-being;
  • Balanced, so that no single area of children's lives dominates the report;
  • Measured regularly, so that they can be updated and show trends over time; and
  • Representative of large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.

In compiling these 41 indicators, the Forum carefully examines the available data while also seeking input from the Federal policymaking community, foundations, academic researchers, and state and local children's service providers. America's Children in Brief, 2018 concludes with a summary table displaying the most recent data for all 41 key national indicators in America's Children at a Glance.

For Further Information on the Forum

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.

America's Children in Brief, 2018

America's Children in Brief, 2018 uses both established and previously untapped data sources to characterize vulnerable children across several of the domains included in the Forum's conceptual framework. The measures included provide emerging insight on children who face special and heightened risks to their well-being. Each section of the report addresses why the measure of at-risk children is important and presents information on characteristics of the population of at-risk children.

In addition to providing descriptive information on trends on the size of the population ages 0 to 17, this year's report features the following measures:

  • Poverty and extreme poverty;
  • Health insurance continuity;
  • Homelessness;
  • Exposure to violence;
  • Prescription opioid misuse and use disorders; and
  • Residential placement of juveniles.

While the measures are in the same domains as those included in the key national indicators, some do not meet the established Forum criteria for annual publication. The measures are included in this year's Brief to provide information on related dimensions of children's well-being while acknowledging their limitations. Exhibit 1 illustrates how these supplemental statistics relate to the key national indicators.

Exhibit 1: Report domains, key national indicators, and America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2018 measures of at-risk children

Domain area

Key national indicator

America's Children in Brief, 2018 measures

Economic Circumstances
The well-being of children depends greatly on the economic circumstances and material well-being of their families.

Child poverty
Children living in poverty are vulnerable to environmental, educational, health, and safety risks.

Child poverty and extreme poverty

Health Care
Health care comprises the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through services offered by health professionals.

Health insurance coverage
Health insurance is a major determinant of access to health care. Children and adolescents need regular and ongoing health care to provide routine preventative care. 

Health insurance continuity

Physical Environment and Safety
The physical environment in which children live plays a role in their health, development, and safety.

Housing problems
Housing that is inadequate, crowded, or too costly can pose serious problems to children's physical, psychological, and material well-being.


Youth victims of serious violent crimes
Violence frequently has dire and long-lasting impacts on young people who experience, witness, or feel threatened by it.

Exposure to violence

The well-being of young people can be affected by aspects of their behavior and social environments.

Illicit drug use
Drug use by adolescents can have immediate as well as long-term health and social consequences. Any illicit drug use during adolescence is a risk-taking behavior that has potentially serious negative consequences.

Prescription opioid misuse and use disorders


Youth perpetrators of serious violent crimes
The level of youth violence in society can be viewed as an indicator of youth's ability to control their behavior and the adequacy of socializing agents to supervise or channel youth behavior to acceptable norms.

Residential placement of juveniles

Please note that the data in this report come from a variety of sources—featuring both sample surveys and universe data collections—often with different underlying populations, as appropriate for the initially conceived data collection. These differences in the underlying populations should be taken into consideration when interpreting the data presented.

1 Children, for the purposes of this publication, are the population from ages 0 to 17. In addition to the terms "children" and "child," "youth," "juveniles," and "adolescents" are terms may be used interchangeably in this year's report.