Philadelphia County ranks among the most disadvantaged areas in America for children in regard to health, poverty, and education measures.
The study, titled “The Land of Inopportunity," was released by Save the Children, a humanitarian 501(c)(3) organization established in 1919, with its United States chapter founded 13 years later. It ranks U.S. counties by where children are most and least prioritized and protected — based on five categories of rates: infant mortality, childhood food insecurity, high school dropouts, teen births, and homicides and/or suicides.
The report ranks Philadelphia County at No. 2,169 out of a total of 2,617 U.S. counties, and No. 63 out of 64 counties within Pennsylvania. Overall, Pennsylvania ranks in the top half of all U.S. states at No. 18.
After applying data from these categories to counties across the country, Save the Children found that U.S. counties that best care for their children are New Jersey's Hunterdon County, Virginia's York County, Kentucky's Oldham County, Wisconsin's Ozaukee County, and Maryland's Carroll County.
The U.S. counties where children struggle the most are Alaska's Kusilvak County, South Dakota's Todd County, Louisiana's Madison County, South Dakota's Carson County, and Alaska's Bethel County.
The report details large disparities between the highest and lowest ranked counties of many states.
Children in the most disadvantaged counties are reported to die at rates up to five times of children in the same state, be three times more likely to lack consistent meals and healthy food, and be 14 times more likely to drop out of high school. "high school" is an important distinction.
Girls living in the most disadvantaged counties become pregnant up to 26 times more often than their peers living in the same state, according to the report.
Over nine million children — one out of eight children in America — live in the bottom quarter of ranked counties, many of which are poor and located in rural areas.
“Millions of poor and marginalized children in this country do not get a fair chance to succeed in life because of who they are and where they grow up,” Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and Advocacy Mark Shriver said in a press release.
Although COVID-19 cases have been less frequent and less severe among children, the report, which is compiled from data collected before the onset of the pandemic, stated that children living in impoverished communities will suffer most from the pandemic's economic and social impacts. The majority of these communities tend to contain minority group populations.
Racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. are disproportionately bearing the brunt of illness and death rates caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. People of color are more likely to have underlying health conditions, be employed in low-wage jobs with higher unemployment risks, live in dense urban areas, and more likely to rely on schools for regular meal access, according to the American Action Forum.
As depicted in the report, children in counties that are least equipped to provide support during COVID-19 are likely to have underlying health conditions, fewer learning materials at home, be dependent on schools for their meals, be at additional risk of at-home violence and abuse, and have a more negative emotional well-being.
Kathy Fisher, the policy director at the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that even with the city and its nonprofit partners' working to provide meals for children during COVID-19, "children are getting one-fourth the meals they'd normally get if they were in school."
Save the Children concluded the ranking by calling upon U.S. policymakers to support children by providing sufficient resources and creating an environment for relevant programs that give children the childhood they deserve.