Hawaii children strained under tight economic conditions, report says
by Merrilee Gasser, The Center Square, June 13, 2023
Hawaii ranks 44th in the nation for children’s economic well-being, seventh lowest in the nation, according to a report released Tuesday.
The state ranked 25th for overall children’s well-being, which includes economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors.
The report was compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropy that provides grants to address challenges facing children and youth. The 2023 Kids Count Data Book looks at all 50 states, analyzing them across 16 indicators related to child well-being.
Hawaii ranked 19th in education, 13th in health, and eighth in family and community.
Several factors played into Hawaii’s low ranking for children’s economic well-being.
The report found 39% of children in Hawaii live in households that spend more than 30% of their income on housing in 2021. That same year, 10% of teenagers aged 16 to 19 were not attending school and not working, and 31% of children were living in families where no parent had a full-time, year-round job.
Hawaii ranked better than the national average of childhood poverty, with 14% of children living in households below the poverty line, the report said.
“The impacts of the pandemic on the economic well-being of our keiki can be seen in this year’s report, particularly with two indicators: 1) children in poverty and 2) children whose parents lack secure employment,” said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, junior specialist at the UH Center on the Family. “Growing up in economic hardship can have harmful lifelong effects on the well-being of our children. Although important tax credits for low- and moderate-income families were recently expanded, we can and should do much more to support Hawaii’s working families now.”
The high cost of childcare in Hawaii was listed as another reason for its poor performance in the economic well-being sector.
Hawaii’s average cost of center-based child care for a toddler was $13,919. That’s over $2,600 more than the in-state tuition cost for a student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, according to the report. It accounts for 12% of the median income of a married couple and 35% of a single mother’s income, the report found.
Meanwhile, childcare workers in Hawaii see lower wages than the average for workers in retail or customer service, according to the report. The median pay for childcare workers in the state is $14.56 an hour, while retail workers see about $16.06 an hour, and customer service workers get an average of $17.94.
“Child care and education professionals are the workforce that enable so many other workforces. We need more of them to join or remain in the sector, which means ensuring that they are paid enough to not only live, but thrive,” said Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawai‘i Children’s Action Network and Hawai‘i’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “When our community invests in our child care workers, we are also investing in making workers available for other industries and contributing to our state’s growth for generations to come.”