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Report: Children of color have worse well-being than whites

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A new report finds wide disparities in well-being for Minnesota's white children and children of color.  

Minnesota is third from the bottom of states with valid data for Asian and Pacific Islander children, according to the Race for Results report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. American Indian children's well-being is the seventh-worst among states with valid data. Meanwhile, Minnesota scores fifth in the nation for white children.

The foundation's index measures states in 12 areas, including percentage of babies at normal birthweight, preschool enrollment, proficiency on the standardized National Assessment of Educational Progress, and poverty and schooling rates. The report averages those areas to create an overall index score.

"Despite Minnesota often being reported as a great state for folks to live in ... when you dig a little deeper you can see that there are many children in Minnesota [who] are not having the same kind of experience of Minnesota that other kids are having," Children's Defense Fund Minnesota Executive Director Bharti Wahi said.

Solutions should include "culturally specific" programs and policies, Wahi said. "Oftentimes our public policies, our curriculum are developed and made by people not from communities themselves. We have an opportunity to change that."

Statistics in the report come from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education.

Wahi said the "Asian" label hides nuances that make Minnesota different from other states. A quarter of Asian Minnesotans are Hmong, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationally, the largest groups in the "Asian" category are Chinese, Filipino and Indian.

These groups have very different economic and educational experiences. Hmong Minnesotans are much more likely than Minnesota's other Asian communities to face poverty. Non-English speaking rates are higher in Minnesota's Vietnamese, Lao and Hmong communities than for other Asian groups.

The biggest contributors to Minnesota's low national ranking for Asian children are poverty rates and fourth-grade reading proficiency.

"These results are not about the ability and the achievement potential and the beauty of children of color and American Indian children. This is really about a system that keeps them and their families at a disadvantage," Wahi said. The report explicates "numerous examples of mistreatment of people of color that helped form the roots of the deep differences in opportunity among children today."