Measuring Trends in Child Well-Being
An Evidence-Based Approach
Published In: Social Indicators Research, v. 80, no. 1, 2007, p. 105-132
Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007
This paper first reviews the goals of the founding documents of the social indicators and quality-of-life movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It next describes the current state of knowledge with respect to the founding goals of this field. The focus then turns to the topic of measuring changes in child and youth well-being in the United States over the past few decades. In particular, the evidence-based approach used in the construction of the recently developed composite Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI) is described. Some findings from the CWI regarding changes in child and youth well-being in the period 1975-2004 are reported. Trends in the CWI then are compared with data on trends in subjective well-being of high school seniors - similarities of trends in these two series provide validating support for the interpretation of the CWI as an index of changes in the quality-of-life of children and youth. Using data on some additional indicator series, most of which were initiated in the 1990s, an Expanded CWI is then described. The qualitative pattern of change in the expanded CWI is shown to be similar to that of the basic CWI, except that the expanded CWI shows a more pronounced decline in the early-1990s and a slower rate of improvement into the early-2000s. The paper concludes with some possible directions for future work.