The 2012 Data Book is Now Available

We have just published our seventh annual Data Book: The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County, and it's available online now.

Over these seven years, the Data Book has become the definitive source of facts about the forces, trends, and factors affecting the healthy brain, social, and physical development of our youngest children. More than anything, the data over these years have confirmed that the focus on optimal brain development for children – particularly from birth to age 3 – was right on target.

The critical mass of research supporting this focus is now overwhelming, and with your help as advocates for early childhood development, progress is being made. While there are some encouraging positive indicators in this year's Data Book, we still have a long way to go.

The good news first: due to increasing awareness about the critical first years of a child's life, Pre-K is not only on the local agenda, it has moved to the top of the agenda.

Below are some encouraging statistics regarding seemingly intractable problems; progress in these areas is the result of community awareness and efforts targeted to specific areas of need by a variety of providers in our community:

  • Overall Shelby County infant mortality rates are down from 13.0 per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 10.3 per thousand in 2010, and the infant mortality rate for African-American babies fell from 18.5 to 13.4.
  • The birth rate per 1,000 girls dropped for Shelby County teenagers (15-19 years old) from 69 in 2008 to 53.5 in 2010, and for African-American teenagers, from 91.5 in 2008 to 69.3 in 2010 (the lowest since 2001).
  • Shelby County mothers who receive no prenatal care dropped from 9 percent in 2007 to 6.7 percent in 2010.
  • The percentage of Shelby County mothers who initiate breastfeeding continues to rise, now at 60.3 percent, up from 50.3 percent in 2006.

These are positive signs, but feelings of progress are tempered by the fact that Memphis and Shelby County still lag behind state and national statistics in these areas, and there are crucial trends that remain troubling and stubborn. The percentage of children in Shelby County who live in poverty is 30% – and half of those - 15% - are living in extreme poverty. Births to unmarried parents remain high at greater than 60 percent, and there is no improvement in the percentage of pre-term births and babies with low birth weights.

Too many children are being born to single parents who did not graduate from high schools – average income is $17,953 – while earnings for a college graduate is more than twice as much - $47,809. Family income matters because it is a consistent link to child well-being, increasing a child's opportunity to grow up in high-quality learning environments which support cognitive skills such as early literacy as well as – and even more importantly – healthy social and emotional development.

This year's 2012 Data Book continues our tradition of spotlighting programs that set a high standard for early brain development and programs that are exemplary in their results. Spotlighted in the current volume are "Books from Birth," an early intervention program associated with strong family reading habits and higher school readiness scores, and "Nurse-Family Partnership," a home visiting program aimed at improving outcomes for at-risk parents and children.

One of our mantras here at The Urban Child Institute is that children are born learning. Because learning is not limited to children, the Data Book gives parents a unique resource to learn more about the science of brain development, about the research into ways to improve school readiness, and about the programs that are showing that we can make a difference in the lives of the children in Memphis and Shelby County.