Young Children at Risk: National and State Prevalence of Risk Factors

Robbins, Taylor A.; Stagman, Shannon M.; Smith, Sheila

Across the U.S., large numbers of young children are affected by one or more risk factors that have been linked to academic failure and poor health. Chief among them is family economic hardship, which is consistently associated with negative outcomes in these two domains. As early as 24 months, children in low-income families have been found to show lags in cognitive and behavioral development compared to their peers in higher-income families (see box for definitions of economic hardship). Other risk factors, such as living in a single-parent family or low parent education levels, especially when combined with poverty, can markedly increase children’s chances of adverse outcomes. Children affected by multiple risks – three or more risk factors – are the most likely to experience school failure and other negative outcomes, including maladaptive behavior. This fact sheet highlights important findings about the prevalence of children experiencing risk factors in the U.S. These findings were produced with the Young Child Risk Calculator, a tool of the National Center for Children in Poverty (see box). The national and state prevalence data presented here, along with additional results available from NCCP’s Young Child Risk Calculator, highlight groups of vulnerable children and families whose needs can be addressed through a wide range of family support, health, and education policies. Information about the size and characteristics of a state’s population of young, at-risk children can inform policy decisions about investments in new or expanded supports that help mitigate risks and improve life outcomes for these children.

Geographic Areas


Also Published In

National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University

More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Children in Poverty
Published Here
February 22, 2019