Children and Youth
Children and Youth | Key Trends
FEATURED TOPIC INDICATORS
Children are set on a trajectory through life in their earliest years, and even before they are born. A healthy pregnancy has a better chance of resulting in a healthy, full-term baby. In Essex County, most pregnant women begin prenatal care in their first trimester, which is the first step toward good birth outcomes. However, the rates vary among racial and ethnic groups, with 86% of Asian mothers, 83% of white mothers, 77% of Hispanic mothers and 76% of African American mothers beginning care early. In addition to the disparities, these rates have not been rising in Essex.
Premature babies are at higher risk for a host of problems and delays. In Essex County in 2014, 10% of births were preterm, equal to state and close to national rates. Infant mortality, the death of babies before age 1, also varies by race and ethnicity. Annual rates for whites are in the range of 3 for every 1,000 births, compared to 8 for Hispanics and 10 for African Americans.
Lead is an especially powerful environmental toxin for babies and young children that can cause permanent damage to cognitive, physical and behavioral abilities. The rate of elevated lead levels in children has been falling, down 40% from 2010 to 2015, to 2.4 per 1,000 children.
Perhaps the greatest risk factor to children’s success is poverty. In 2010-14, 16% of Essex County children were living at or below the poverty level, up from 12% in 2000 but below the national rate of 22%. The cities of Lawrence and Lynn had higher rates, 39% and 31%, and poverty was greater among African American (30%) and Hispanic (37%) children.
Reported child abuse or neglect has been increasing in recent years in Essex County, with substantiated cases up 19% since 2010.
As children grow up, some exhibit risky behavior. Teen births in Essex County have fallen 60% since 2000 to 14 per 1,000 in 2014. This is somewhat higher than the state rate but far below the national rate of 24. Youth arrests, in contrast, have been steady since 2007. In 2015, Essex County recorded 7,300 youth arrests, a rate of 4.4 per 10,000 youth, similar to the state rate and above a similar county, Middlesex, MA (3.0). About 10% of young people between 16 and 24 are not in school or working – similar to the state and below the national rate of 14%.