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A persistent racial gap

Studies show Indian, Hispanic youth fare worse than whites in region

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Studies show Indian, Hispanic youth fare worse than whites in region
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American Indian and Hispanic children in North Dakota and Minnesota continue to lag behind their white peers, and, by some measures, they are worse off than their peers of the same race around the nation, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


For example, the percentage of Indians and Hispanics who graduated from high school on time in both states is lower than the national average for their racial peers. At the same time, the percentage of whites in both states graduating on time is higher than the average for whites nationwide.

In both cases, Indians and Hispanics lagged behind whites.

The Casey Foundation, known for publishing annual data on children’s well-being in its Kids Count reports, said that, as the number of nonwhite children grows in the nation, they will make up the majority of the work force by 2030.

Reducing this gap is both important to the nation’s promise of equal opportunities for all and to the nation’s future prosperity, the group said in its report, “Race for Results.”

Kids Count North Dakota, based at North Dakota State University, agreed. “The demographics of our state are changing and the fastest growing youth population faces many obstacles blocking their path to success,” the group said in a statement.

Their counterparts at the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota said that “To ensure Minnesota’s future prosperity we need to act now so poverty, poor health or crime doesn’t stop another child from the opportunity to become an entrepreneur or teacher or any other role that positively contributes to our community and economy.”

The report also included data on other nonwhite race groups around the nation.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, the gaps between white children and Indian and Hispanic children were narrower when they were younger and got wider as the children grew older, the state’s Kids Count noted.

For example, at birth, the percentage of Indian and Hispanic infants born at normal weight was the same as whites at 93 percent. The percentage of 3- to 5-year-olds in early education programs, such as kindergarten, was 41 percent for Indians, 32 percent for Hispanics and 53 percent for whites.

By eighth grade, the percentage of children who scored proficient or better on standardized math tests was 14 percent for Indians and 44 percent for whites. Data for Hispanics was not available.

At the end of their secondary education, 60 of Indians and 67 percent of Hispanics graduated from high school on time compared to 91 percent of whites.

By their mid- to late 20s, 21 percent of Indians and 32 percent of Hispanics had at least an associate degree compared to 51 percent of whites.

Kids Count North Dakota blamed childhood poverty for the wide disparity. “The earliest years of a child’s life are the period when the most brain development occurs, laying the foundation for later learning and success. ... Research has shown that growing up in severe poverty contributes directly to toxic stress that affects children’s health, brain development, and social and emotional well-being.”

Among Indians, 72 percent live with families whose incomes are less than 200 percent of the official poverty rate. For a household of two adults and two children in 2012, that was an income of $46,600. For Hispanics, that figure was 56 percent. For whites, it was 26 percent.


Kids Count Minnesota observed the same growing gaps as nonwhite children grew older.

At birth, 92 percent of Indian children were of normal birth weight compared to 94 percent for Hispanics and whites. As toddlers, 61 percent of Indians and 55 percent of Hispanics were in an early education program compared to 61 percent of whites.

By eighth grade, 20 percent of Hispanics were proficient in math compared to 54 percent of whites. Indian statistics were not available.

By the end of their high school years, 61 percent of Indians and 67 percent of Hispanics graduated on time compared to 92 percent of whites.

By their mid- to late 20s, 11 percent of Indians and 18 percent of Hispanics had at least an associate degree compared to 55 percent of whites.

Childhood poverty was also common among nonwhites in Minnesota, with 71 percent of Indians and 61 percent of Hispanics living with families at 200 percent or less of the poverty rate compared to 24 percent of whites.

“When we compare data on health, education and economic outcomes for all Minnesota children, we often fare better than most states. But when we break the data down by race and ethnicity, Minnesota has some of the greatest disparities among children in the country,” Stephanie Hogenson, a spokeswoman for the CDF-MN, said in a news release.

CDF-MN and Kids Count North Dakota both cited recommendations from “Race for Results,” including using data to make investments that have the biggest impact on nonwhite children, expand programs that are proven to work and start programs that directly connect vulnerable groups to economic opportunities.

On the Web: To see the “Race for Results” report, go to Links on the page are available for the main report, which looks at national data and supplementary data from each state.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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