Maui News

KIDS COUNT Report: Hawaiʻi Plunges to 44th in Economic Well-Being of Keiki

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The 2021 KIDS COUNT report, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, states Hawaiʻi’s ranking in children’s economic well-being dropped to 44th in the nation. Chart: KIDS COUNT Data Book

Hawaiʻi’s ranking in children’s economic well-being dropped in one year from 25th to 44th, according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report that uses recent household data to analyze how families fared between the Great Recession and the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

This year’s Data Book, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, also shows that Hawaiʻi dropped from 17th to 26th in the annual KIDS COUNT overall child well-being rankings, which represent the most recent information available but does not capture the impact of the past year.

“By revealing that Hawaiʻi’s keiki were falling behind the rest of the nation even before the pandemic, the newest KIDS COUNT Data Book should be a warning bell to everyone who cares about our state’s children,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, Hawaiʻi’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “Policymakers and community leaders must act boldly to prevent our children’s well-being from deteriorating further.”


The 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book is available at

Today, June 21, also is Child Tax Credit Awareness Day, as announced by the Biden Administration. This year, through the expanded Child Tax Credit, most families will receive up to $300 per month per child from July to December — a major step toward ensuring children’s economic well-being in Hawaiʻi and across the country.

In the annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Annie E. Casey Foundation assesses child well-being through sixteen indicators measuring four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context. There are four indicators that comprise the economic well-being domain:


• Children in poverty: In 2019, 12% of Hawaiʻi’s children lived in households with incomes below the poverty line. Hawaiʻi ranks well in child poverty, at eighth in the nation, largely because the official poverty line does not factor in the high cost of living here.

• Children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment: In 2019, 24% of Hawaiʻi children lived in families where no parent was fully employed. With the highest unemployment rate in the nation for most of 2020, this indicator will likely worsen for Hawaiʻi with data that reflect the impact of the pandemic.

• Children in households that spend more than 30% of their income on housing: In 2019, Hawaiʻi fell to 49th in the nation for this indicator, with 38% of children living in households that were housing cost-burdened, reflecting Hawaiʻi’s affordable housing crisis.


• Teens ages 16 to 19 not attending school and not working: In 2019, 10% of Hawaiʻi’s teens were not in school and not working, placing them at 47th in the nation. This indicator also will likely worsen with data that reflect the impact of the pandemic.

“It is very concerning that Hawaiʻi already ranked in the bottom 10 states on children’s economic well-being, according to these pre-pandemic data,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, junior specialist at the University of Hawaiʻi Center on the Family. “It took the lowest-income families a decade to recover from the Great Recession, and now we are once again facing the threat of a greater share of our keiki growing up in economic hardship, which can have long-lasting effects on education and future employment.”

In addition, Census Bureau survey data collected since the start of the coronavirus crisis adds to the story of Hawaiʻi’s children and families in this moment:

• In March 2021, 61% of Hawaiʻi households with children reported losing employment income since the start of the pandemic. In comparison, the national percentage of similar households reporting lost income was 49%. This wide gap highlights the disproportionate economic effect of the coronavirus crisis on Hawaiʻi’s families and children.

“Our state’s leaders should prioritize investing in children, families and communities to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery,” Zysman said. “These priorities include boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding early learning programs, enacting paid family and sick leave, and adopting student-centered budgeting. The Data Book shows that simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange thousands of Hawaiʻi kids and fail to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities.”


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