While lawmakers took some important steps toward addressing disparities during the 2016 Legislative Session, a new report by Voices for Utah Children reveals many missed opportunities.
“Children of color in Utah are experiencing more poverty and hardship compared to non-Hispanic White children,” states the report. In every area reviewed by the report—education, health, juvenile justice and poverty—there are significant social, economic, and health inequities affecting children of color. For example:
Only 29% of Hispanic Utah children ages 3-4 attend preschool compared to 43% of White children.
Black children make up 1% of the Utah child population but 23% of the children in juvenile detention.
White children in Utah are three times more likely to have health insurance than Hispanic Utah children.
Children of color are more likely to be in poverty in Utah than White children.
The 2016 Legislative Session brought gains in access to preschool (SB 101), health coverage for lawfully residing immigrant children (HB 2) and school discipline reform (HB 460). But the report cites missed opportunities to expand optional extended-day kindergarten, address Utah’s public defender shortage, expand health coverage to all low-income families and help more families work their way out of poverty by investing in a state Earned Income Tax Credit.
“As Utah becomes a more diverse state, disparities along racial and ethnic lines are widening,” said Lincoln Nehring, President and CEO of Voices for Utah Children. “We need to do more to correct these disparities and invest in Utah’s diverse future.”
The report encourages advocates to integrate an equity lens into their work and build coalitions that will strengthen opportunities for all families. The report also lists several strategies policymakers can adopt to ensure that state policy contributes toward equity for children of all races and ethnicities:
Disaggregate data by race and ethnicity and review the impact of public policies on all racial and ethnic groups.
Work with affected communities when developing legislation.
Recognize that different individuals and communities may need different resources to achieve similar outcomes.
For more information, see the complete report: Racial and Ethnic Equity for Children in Utah: What We Learned from the 2016 Legislative Session