Child poverty falling in Oregon, but educational outcomes still lag

Students eat breakfast in the Hallman Elementary School cafeteria (Fred Joe/Special to Salem Reporter)

The number of children living in poverty in Oregon is lower than at any point during the last decade, but the state still lags on educational outcomes, according to data released Monday from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The foundation’s annual Kids Count data book ranks states on child well-being based on economic, health, education and family and community factors. Oregon ranked 31st in the U.S.

Here are a few key takeaways. All numbers are from 2017 unless otherwise specified.

Child poverty in Oregon is falling

About 141,000 Oregon kids lived in low-income families. That’s about 16% of Oregon kids, lower than the national level of 18%.

Oregon child poverty peaked during the Great Recession, when about one-quarter of kids lived in low-income households and has been falling since.

Both the number and percentage of kids in poverty now is lower than in 2008.

Graduation rates have improved, but remain among the nation’s worst

In 2010, about one in three Oregon teens didn’t graduate high school on time. By 2017, that number had fallen to about one in four.

Despite that progress, Oregon ranked 41st among states for educational outcomes, just ahead of South Carolina. That’s in part because Oregon’s graduation rates remain low. Nationwide, 15% of teens don’t finish high school on time.

Health improvements are mixed

First the good news: the vast majority of Oregon kids have health insurance. Just 4% were uninsured, down from 9% in 2010.

But that coverage hasn’t moved child and teen death rates, which are worse now than they were in 2010. In Oregon, about 26 of every 100,000 minors die each year. Accidents, mostly motor vehicle crashes, are the main cause of death for children and teens.

Babies born with a low birth weight are about as common now as they were a decade ago in Oregon, with just under 7% of kids underweight at birth. Those babies are more likely to die in their first year of life or have development problems. Low birth weight can be caused by poor nutrition, poverty, stress, violence or smoking during pregnancy.

Teen pregnancy rates are low

A decade ago, almost 4,500 Oregon teens gave birth. In 2017, just 1,800 babies were born to teen mothers.

The state’s teen pregnancy rate is half what it was in 2008, mirroring a national decline in the teen birthrate.

In Oregon, about 15 of every 1,000 teen girls gives birth in a year. That’s lower than the national average, and the same at both Washington and California.

Have a tip? Reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.