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Minnesota Kids Count book reveals disparities among children of color, American Indian children

Statistically, a quarter of all youth younger than 17 years of age in Beltrami County live in poverty, according to a data book released by Kids Count Minnesota.

Representatives from the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota presented its latest book, "Every Kid Counts: A Closer Look at Children of Color and American Indian Children," Wednesday in the County Administration Building.

As the Minnesota Kids Count grantee, CDF-MN releases periodic reports and an annual data book regarding the well-being of children and families in Minnesota. This year, the data book took a closer look into issues of race and ethnicity.

In 2002, Minnesota Kids Count published a data book that took a closer look at children of color and American Indian children. It highlighted inequalities between white children and children of color and American Indian children. Today, the latest data book reveals there are still many areas where work is needed to close disparity gaps.

When asked why Kids Count Minnesota wanted to focus on children of color and American Indian children, CDF-MN research director Kara Arzamendia said "it was long overdue."

"We went around the state last year and a lot of people wanted us to look at the data differently," she said. "There are a lot of disparities in the data that we wanted to call attention to. I think we also wanted to use this book to set precedence on moving forward and thinking about how different populations are faring in Minnesota among the child population."

With prenatal care, Arzamendia said the data revealed 9 percent of American Indian women in Minnesota received late or no prenatal care in 2006-2008, compared to 1 percent of white women.

The data book stated that black women have a 2.5 higher rate of infant mortality than white or Asian women.

"We have seen reductions since the beginning of the decade, so we're making some strides in this area; however, we are still not getting across disparities," Arzamendia said. "We haven't closed the gap. We need to look at more outreach and education in this area."

In the state and in Beltrami County, the percentage of youth living in poverty has been increasing since the beginning of the decade, Arzamendia said. New data regarding poverty numbers is expected to be released next month.

"They are expecting the largest one-year increase since the beginning of data collection," she said, referring to a time span of roughly five decades.

But while poverty remains high in Beltrami County, Arzamendia pointed out the food support in the county is 33 percent higher than the poverty level, meaning children in poverty are getting the food they need.

The Kids Count data book revealed that children and youth make up half of all of Minnesota's homeless population. While American Indian youth only represent 1 percent of all youth in the state, they make up 20 percent of the homeless youth population.

"I think there are some huge issues we need to be looking at," Arzamendia said.

With education, the book highlighted fourth-grade reading scores.

The data showed that 12 percent of black students and 13 percent of Hispanic student tested as proficient in reading in the fourth grade. More than 85 percent tested as not proficient. Only 57 percent of white students tested as proficient in reading.

"That's unacceptable," Arzamendia said.

Arzamendia said there were large disparities found in the data regarding four-year high school graduation rates among different races and ethnicities.

In Beltrami County, the number of students graduating in four years has been on the rise since 2002.

This is good, Arzamendia said, but this number is still slightly below the state average.

Norma Bourland, regional coordinator of CDF-MN, encouraged those who attended the data book presentation to "get angry about these numbers."

"I'm here to say you can be angry," Bourland told attendees. "The disparity gap between children of color and our white children is not OK. We should be ashamed of it. It's one of the worst gaps in the nation. Our children of color deserve better and deserve a voice in the system."

The Minnesota Kids Count data book also identified ways to improve its data collection, citing the need for more informed input from communities of color and American Indian communities, better accessibility of data to communities of color and American Indian communities, developing a clearer sense of whether or not children are "home grown" in Minnesota versus those that have come from other states or countries, and becoming more specific about ethnicity beyond simply race.

For an electronic copy of the data book, visit

For one-page fact sheets highlighting data on the economic well-being, family structure, health, early childhood education, grades K-12 education and safety on the county level, visit the CDF-MN website at