KAC shines a data spotlight on barriers facing Kansas kids of color

June 20, 2018

In a pair of new reports, Kansas Action for Children shows powerfully how systemic racism shapes the lives of children in our state – and suggests how we can make changes to ensure healthy starts for every Kansas child.

The Data Spotlight series digs deep, disaggregating important indicators by race and ethnicity. KAC found Kansas children of color face institutional barriers, both in infant mortality and insurance rates, that affect their ability to lead healthy lives.

Here are five takeaways from the reports, which are out today.

Black Kansas babies are more likely to die in their first year than white Kansas babies

Systemic obstacles, combined with structural racism in both health care and society as a whole, means that Black Kansas babies are roughly three times as likely to die before their first birthday than white Kansas babies. While Kansas marked a record-low infant mortality rate last year, those gains were not evenly shared among all children.

Systemic racism plays a lead role in rates of Black infant mortality 

The racial discrimination experienced by Black women throughout their lifetimes increases their likelihood of having babies preterm, increasing the risk of infant mortality. Nearly twice as many Black Kansas babies were born with low birth weights than white Kansas babies.

Class is not a protective factor from the effects of racial discrimination. Racial discrimination, and the stress it causes, affects Black Americans at all income and education levels.

Black, Latinx kids are more likely than white Kansas kids to face health insurance obstacles

Despite the increase in health insurance rates for the state’s children, more than 30,000 Kansas children went without health insurance in 2015, a number much too high for Kansans committed to healthy children and a healthy state. Black and Latinx Kansas children are twice as likely as their white counterparts to be without health insurance.

Roughly one in 10 Black (10 percent) and Latinx (9 percent) Kansas children do not have health insurance, compared with white Kansas children (4 percent).

Regardless of health insurance type, children of color contend with coverage barriers

Race often dictates how parents enter the workforce, in terms of occupation, industry and type of work. These differences mean Black and Latinx parents are less likely to have employer-sponsored insurance for their families.

Black and Latinx parents who have access to health insurance through their employer still might not be able to afford the employee contribution. On average, Black Kansans make $21,743 less and Latinx Kansans make $15,303 less than white Kansans.

Kansas policymakers and practitioners can make a difference for Kansas kids

Policymakers and practitioners can address the pressing problems of infant mortality and access to health insurance coverage. For example, culturally adapted health care training for medical professionals can help address implicit bias, which can harm mothers-to-be of color. Investments in evidence-based home visiting programs would also make a difference in bolstering a healthy start for Kansas kids

For children without access to health insurance, policymakers can expand KanCare, which would provide affordable health care to an estimated 150,000 Kansans who are currently in the coverage gap. In addition, addressing problems with the state’s eligibility system could help the 23,000 uninsured children in the state who are eligible for KanCare but not enrolled.

The new reports, which include further information and additional policy suggestions, are available now online at kacdata.org.