Updates showcase new “detailed comparisons” feature

Communities Count has posted 10 new data updates – with interpretation – of indicators about EDUCATION and FAMILY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT.  Most of these indicators are also posted on Best Starts for Kids Indicators.  Communities Count interprets data with an equity lens and, when possible, in a policy-informed local context.

Although many of these indicators are familiar to Communities Count audiences, using Tableau for data visualization enables us to present more detailed analyses. To introduce you to this feature – and perhaps entice you to explore it more on your own—we preview a few of these detailed comparisons by race and place:

PLACE MATTERS when looking at differences by race-ethnicity. 

  • Kindergarten readiness: Overall, white, multiple-race, and Asian kindergarteners were most likely to be ready in all 6 skill areas.  This pattern was clear in Seattle School District, where 40% of Black children and 70% of white children were “kindergarten-ready.” In other districts, however, Black and white children showed no differences in kindergarten readiness.
    • Tukwila: 52% of both Black and white children were kindergarten-ready.
    • Auburn: 23% for both Black and white children were kindergarten-ready.
  • 3rd grade reading: Overall, only 7% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students met 3rd grade reading standards, but in Auburn School District 41% met standards, almost a 6-fold difference.
  • 4th grade math: Overall, only 20% of American Indian/Alaska Native 4th graders met state math standards.  In Auburn School District, however, 55% met state standards
  • Adolescents with adult support:
    • Across all 4 King County regions, white adolescents reported rates of adult support higher than the county average.
    • For all other race/ethnicity groups, living in South Region was associated with adult support levels below the King County average.
    • And for American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, and Black adolescents, living in Seattle was also associated with below-average adult support; for adolescents in these 3 groups living in East and North regions, however, rates of adults support did not differ from the county average.


Here are links to the 10 new updates, with samples of 2 of 3 findings for each:

  • Child care affordability
    • 76% of preschool-aged children (6 months to 5 years old) in King County were in regularly scheduled non-parental childcare. Among the parents/guardians of those children, 69% said their childcare was affordable.
    • 41% of children in kindergarten through 5th grade were in regularly scheduled before- and/or after-school care; among their parents/guardians, 76% said their childcare was affordable.
  • Daily Reading, Singing & Telling Stories to Young Children
    • Overall, 73% of parents/guardians of children age 6 months to 5 years reported reading, singing, or telling stories to their children every day.
    • Daily reading, singing, or telling stories occurred in 45% of households where Spanish was the language most often spoken at home, significantly below the county average.
    • There were no differences by income, education, or King County region.
  • Emotional Support for Parenting
    • 75% of parents and caregivers reported that, during the past 12 months, they had someone to turn to for day-to-day emotional support with parenting or raising children.
    • At 94%, parents of American Indian/Alaska Native children were most likely to report having someone to turn to for day-to-day emotional support for parenting.
    • Parents and caregivers were most likely to have support with parenting if English was the language most commonly spoken at home.
  • Adolescents with Adult Support  [NEW INDICATOR]
    • 75% of King County 8th, 10th, and 12th graders reported having a supportive adult in their neighborhood or community who they “could talk to about something important.”
    • Since 2004, disparities by both race and place – have increased (see trends). Averaging data from 2014 and 2016,
      • 83% of white students could turn to a supportive adult in their neighborhood or community compared to 63% of Latino students.
      • South Region students (69%) were least likely to have an adult they could talk to, compared to 81% of students in East Region.
    • Mother’s education was a strong predictor of whether students had adult support, with more education predicting a greater chance of having support.
  • Youth in School or working  [NEW INDICATOR]
    • Of youth ages 16 to 24 in King County, 90% were connected to their communities either through employment or enrollment in school.
    • At 93%, Seattle had the highest rate of youth engagement.
    • Asian youth had the highest rate (93%) of being in school or employed.
  • Kindergarten Readiness
    • Fewer than half (47%) of King County students entering state-funded, full-day kindergarten had the skills expected for school readiness.
    • Even “next-door neighbors” varied considerably in the proportion of kindergarteners with the skills expected of 5-year-olds, from 21% in Auburn to 58% in neighboring Enumclaw.
    • Children who were white, 2 or more races, or Asian were most likely to display readiness in 6 specific skill areas.
  • 3rd Grade reading
    • 62% of King County 3rd graders met state reading standards.
    • Girls were more likely than boys to meet reading standards.
    • At 83%, 3rd graders in Mercer Island were most likely to meet reading standards, compared to only 36% of students in Highline District.
  • 4th Grade Math
    • 64% of King County 4th graders met state math standards.
    • 4thgraders who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals are considered low-income, and were less likely to meet math standards than those who were not considered low-income (40% vs. 75%).
    • Only 20% of 4th grade students in foster care met math standards.
  • Chronic Absenteeism  [NEW INDICATOR]
    • In the 2014-2015 school year, 14% of King County students were chronically absent.
    • Students who qualified for free or reduced-price school meals were twice as likely to be chronically absent as those who were not low-income (21% vs. 9%, respectively).
    • Highline and Federal Way School Districts reported the highest rate chronic absenteeism (20%); the lowest rate was in Issaquah School District (6%).
  • Child Abuse & Neglect
    • Investigations and assessments by Child Protective Services declined from a high of 9,756 King County households in 2007 to 8,238 in 2016.
    • Similarly, the rate of children in foster care declined from 5.72 per 1,000 in 2000 to 3.44 per 1,000 in 2017.
    • Despite these declines, the likelihood of being placed in out-of-home care in 2017 was disproportionately high for children who were American Indian / Alaska Native, Black / African American, or Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander.

Communities Count is pleased to have new data sources for (i) Child Care; (ii) Reading, Singing & Telling Stories to Children; (iii) Emotional Support for Parenting; (iv) Kindergarten Readiness; and (v) Child Abuse & Neglect.  Previous data came from:

  • The Communities Count Survey (indicators I, ii, and iii); questions about these topics are now included in the Best Starts for Kids Survey, which received responses from a representative sample of almost 6,000 parents and guardians of children from 6 months old through 5th grade! Best Starts for Kids will repeat this survey within the coming year and then again 2 years later.
  • The Early Development Instrument (EDI) (indicator iv), which was replaced by the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS).
  • The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services’ famlink database (indicator v), which Partners for Our Children, a collaboration between the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, University of Washington School of Social Work, and private sector funding.

Young adults keep renting, not buying

Seattle Times number-cruncher Gene Balk recently reported that young adults age 25-34, until recently eager to become homeowners, are passing on the opportunity.   Balk’s compelling charts show that in King County:

  • Homeownership for this age group dropped from 50% in 1980 to 25% in 2013.
  • More dramatically, after homeownership for median-income married couples age 25-34 stayed close to 80% from 1980 to 2007, it fell to only 50% in 2013.

While this trend can be seen across the county, “the rate of the decline here has been more than twice as fast as the national average.”

Possible reasons cited for the trend include:

  • Expensive real estate, which is especially unaffordable for young people just starting careers.
  • Delay of marriage (which is often paired with buying a home):  53% of King County’s 25- to 34-year olds have never been married compared to 27% in 1980.
  • College debt – a 5-fold increase nationally – which can severely limit the ability to save for a down payment and qualify for a mortgage.
  • Shifting attitudes towards homeownership, due in part to post-recession wariness, plus an appreciation of the flexibility and freedom from responsibility enjoyed by renters.

For more information on housing in King County, see recent Communities Count updates on:

Additional housing updates will be posted in the coming weeks.


How connected are we to our military?

Not very, according to The Atlantic’s current cover story, which asserts that “however much Americans ‘support’ and ‘respect’ their troops, they are not involved with them, and that disengagement inevitably leads to dangerous decisions the public barely notices.” It wasn’t always this way: At least 3 out of 4 Americans born before 1955 had a parent, spouse, sibling, or child who served in the military; for those born since 1980, the number is only 1 in 3.

The article’s interactive map enables readers to view military enlistment rates by 3-digit ZIP code prefixes. Almost everyone in King County lives in the 981- or 980- ZIP codes. For 981- ZIP codes (Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Burien, Tukwila, Renton-North, Normandy Park, Des Moines, and SeaTac), per capita enlistment from 2000 to 2010 was 19.6 per 1,000 population (38,295 individuals). For 980- ZIP codes (everyplace else except the northeast corner of the county), the number of enlistees was lower (16,550), but the enlistment rate was 1.5 times higher – 29.9 per 1,000 population, suggesting that Seattle residents are less likely than those in other parts of the county to have close family connections to active-duty military.

A 2013 report from King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) shows a similar pattern for veterans, with almost three-quarters of the county’s 127,000 veterans living outside Seattle.

While most Communities Count analyses found no differences by military status, a couple of results are worth noting. First, veterans were significantly less likely than non-veterans to report that they experienced discrimination during the past year. This suggests that “support and respect” for the military is alive and well in King County. Another notable finding, while not surprising, was that veterans had a higher rate of disability than non-veterans. According to the DCHS report, it’s likely that more than 20,000 King County veterans have experienced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with as many as 12,000 reluctant to seek treatment or support.

King County’s Veterans and Human Services Levy has improved the quality of many lives by increasing access to veterans’ services in South King County and increasing PTSD community education and professional training. The Atlantic’s cover story suggests, though, that our military needs more than reverence and services: It needs the public and its elected representatives to become engaged enough to insist on accountability for high-level decisions that put our soldiers at risk in endless, expensive, and possibly unwinnable wars.

Providing data. Inspiring action.

Did you know . . .
• Communities Count data were on display at the recent “RACE: Are We So Different?” exhibit at Pacific Science Center?
• King County cities use Communities Count data to make budgetary decisions about housing and human services?
• The Road Map Project and Eastside Pathways, two major education initiatives in King County, use Communities Count data for baseline data and performance measurement?
• King County Executive Dow Constantine used Communities Count data in his recent State of the County address?
• Children’s Hospital uses Communities Count data in its Community Health Needs Assessments?
• The Seattle Office for Education consulted Communities Count data to help predict the cost of the city’s universal pre-K proposal?
• CityClub uses Communities Count data in its reports on regional civic involvement?
• The Children’s Alliance and other groups used Communities Count data to advocate for retaining the state’s Basic Food program?
Click here to see these and many more examples of Communities Count data in action.
Please take a couple of minutes to let us know how you’re using Communities Count data.

Benefits outweigh costs of early education

In Are We Crazy About Our Kids, economists and bankers make the business case for investing in early education. This episode in a forthcoming documentary series, The Raising of America, calls on 40 years of research showing substantial returns on investments in high quality care and education for children birth to age 5, and profiles a successful program in Montreal. Seattle may get on board soon with Preschool for All, a proposal for voluntary, high-quality, universal preschool. A public hearing is scheduled for May 29th.