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Census Data: Too Many Kids Need Public Assistance, Too Many Teens Without Higher Ed Degrees

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With a particular focus on the education, health care and nutrition of Idaho's youngest citizens, the 2015 Census Data Highlights from Idaho Voices for Children reveals some significant needs.

The report indicates that only 34 percent of Idaho 3- and 4 year old's are enrolled in any type of early education, compared to a national average of nearly 48 percent. There is also a wide variation among counties: 42 percent of Ada County's young children are enrolled in early education, compared to 23 percent in Canyon County.

Among Idaho young adults (ages 25-34), approximately 90 percent hold a high-school degree, but only 33.3 percent have an associate's degree or higher (compare that to a national average of 40.4 percent). Ada County's young adults have a higher level: 42.6 percent hold an associate's degree or higher. At the bottom end, only 9.4 percent of Owyhee County's young adults have an associate's degree or higher.

The survey also reveals so-called "disconnected youth"—teens ages 16-19 not in school and not working. Statewide, that's more than 8,000 teens. 

The report also chronicles children under the age of 18 who are living below the federal poverty limit. Statewide, that includes more than 81,000 children, or 19.3 percent of all Idaho kids. When counting children living in households receiving some kind of assistance—Supplemental Security Income, Cash Public Assistance or Food Stamps—that number rises to more than 108,000 Idaho children, more than a quarter of all Idaho kids.

"We know that Idaho will have the strongest future possible when all kids have the opportunities that will put them on a path to success, regardless of zip code and ethnicity," said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children. "Increasing access to early education and affordable postsecondary education will strengthen our state today and for decades to come."

Read the full study here.