New report describes problems and solutions affecting futures of African American children in Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- A new report describing poverty, racial prejudice and inferior education, but also some improved conditions affecting many African American children living in Texas, was released Wednesday (Oct. 1) as a part of The Texas Kids Count Project. The research was conducted at The University of Texas at Austin in partnership with the Center for Public Policy Priorities of Austin.

The report, African American Children in Texas, is intended to be used as a tool for local, state and federal policymakers and others who work toward improving the lives of Texas' African American children. It provides information on the health, education and socioeconomic conditions affecting African American children, said Pam Hormuth, director of Kids Count project, which is part of a nationwide effort to highlight the well-being of children in every state. She said the project involves building a comprehensive database of indicators of child well-being.

"The report shows that if resources are applied, we can expect improvements in a lot of these problem areas. If not, the price Texans will pay for failing to help these children become successful adults is enormous," said Hormuth. She and other researchers on the two-year project used information gathered during interviews and focus groups with community members, as well as data from state agencies and academic literature, to describe the conditions facing African American children in Texas.

Hormuth said that ignoring the problems increases the probability that African American children will attend the worst schools, have a higher risk of becoming school dropouts or teen parents and will be the victims and/or perpetrators of crime. Poverty is a major problem and, according to the 1990 census, about four out of every 10 African American children live in poverty.

African American Children in Texas notes that:

  • More than twice as many African American unmarried teens are having babies than other ethnic groups. African American babies are twice as likely as other ethnic groups to be born with low birthweights. The percent of African American low birthweight babies is increasing and is associated with a variety of health risks.
  • Twice as many African American babies will die before their first birthday as other ethnic groups, although the infant mortality rate for African Americans is decreasing.
  • While the teen violent death rate went down between 1992 and 1994 for Anglo Americans, it went up for African American and Hispanic teens.
  • In spite of the fact that more African American mothers are receiving prenatal care, the percent of low birthweight babies is rising.
  • While child death rates decreased for most ethnic groups between 1992 and 1994, they increased for African American children.
  • More than one in five births to African Americans is to a "single" teen.

Hormuth said African American communities already possess many strengths, including loving families, people who care in neighborhoods and schools and many excellent programs for children. However, much more is needed to help children succeed, including a multi-faceted approach involving community partnerships between all the relevant players at the community, state and federal levels.

Solutions recommended by The Texas Kid Count Project:

  • Eliminate racism in the lives of African American children, particularly in access to education, housing, juvenile justice, political, social and economic resources.
  • Emphasize education. A good education is an important way to improve the odds for African American children in Texas. The whole community needs to make education, including preschool, a top priority. The importance of high standards in curriculum and instruction as well as the involvement of the family should be emphasized. These are just a few ways to ensure that African American children get the education they need to become successful adults.
  • Provide financial support and incentives for African American entrepreneurs who wish to initiate businesses within the African American community.
  • Invest in programs for children to improve the safety, health and well-being of African American children.

The report found that the family is one major social support network that is used to cope with economic and societal pressures in and on the African American community. Family networks provide emotional support and guidance as the African American family struggles with socioeconomic, physical and psychological challenges. Extended families become particularly important for single parent families. The extended family can reduce stress, encourage coping behaviors and assist in working through problems by nurturing and providing positive role models.

Community members cite religion and spirituality as vital elements in the lives of many African Americans. The spiritual lifestyle is internalized and provides a sense of empowerment and a "purpose greater than self" which assists the family in coping with many challenges that African Americans face.

  Texas African American Children All Texas Children Improved since 1992 for African American Children
Percent of African American children in the Texas population (1994) 13.1% 100% *na
Percent children living in poverty (1990) 39.3% 24% na
Juvenile violent crime arrest rate (1994, per 100,000 10-17 yr. olds) 1260.9 425.7 na
Estimated longitudinal dropout rate (1993-94) 17.8% 14.4% Improved
Teen violent death rate (1994, per 100,000 15-19 yr. olds) 117.8 71.9  
Percent low birthweight babies (1994) 12.8% 7.0%  
Infant mortality rate (1994, per 1,000 live births) 12.5 7.1 Improved
Child death rate, 1994 (per 100,000 1-14 yr. olds) 46.3 29.3  
Births to single teens (1994) 22.1%
African American
Total Population
Percent of mothers receiving little or no prenatal care (1994) 7.2% 5.9% Improved
Texas unemployment rates (1995) 12.2% 6.5% na

* na=data for 1992 not available