Where children are born can affect their chances for a strong start in life. Babies need Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences to foster their healthy brain development and help them realize their full potential.
This national profile provides a snapshot of how infants, toddlers, and their families are faring in each of these three policy domains. Within each domain, view data for selected child, family, and policy indicators. The profile begins with a demographic description of the nation’s babies and families to offer the broadest context for exploring what may be very different experiences of the nation’s youngest children.
Infants and Toddlers in the United States
The United States is home to 11.5 million babies, representing 3.5 percent of the nation’s population. As many as 40.3 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2019, about $51,500 a year for a family of four), placing them at economic disadvantage. America’s youngest children are diverse and are raised in a variety of family contexts and household structures.
Note: N/A indicates Not Available
How are U.S. babies faring in Good Health?
Supporting babies’ and mothers’ physical and mental health provides the foundation for infants’ lifelong physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. Babies’ brains grow rapidly in the first years of life, and, in these early years, the brain works with other organs and organ systems to set the stage for subsequent development and health outcomes. Equitable access to good nutrition during the prenatal period and first years of life is key to ensure that babies receive the nourishment and care they need for a strong start in life. Strengthening equitable access to integrated, affordable maternal, pediatric, and family health care is also essential to meeting babies’ and families’ health and developmental needs.
National data in the Good Health domain include indicators of maternal and child health, including health care coverage, prenatal care, birth outcomes, and receipt of recommended preventive care as well as food security, nutrition, and mental health. National averages and state counts in these areas indicate that infants and toddlers as a whole are doing well or have made gains in areas such as high percentages completing routine medical visits, vaccinations, and low percentages of low-income infants and toddlers who are uninsured. However, as reflected in the subgroup views the profile includes for several indicators, these gains may not be shared by all groups.
Key Indicators of Good Health
Good Health Policy in America
- Recommended 25
- Allowed 12
- No Policy 8
- Required 6
- All employees covered (private and state) 5
- State employees only 3
- Limited coverage: State employees and private employees with exceptions 23
- No protections 20
- No law beyond mandatory 60 days 45
- Law covering all women for 1 year post-partum 1
- Law covering either some women but not all, or all women but for less than 1 year 5
All Good Health Indicators
How are U.S. babies faring in Strong Families?
Young children develop in the context of their families, where stability, safety, and supportive relationships nurture their growth. All families may benefit from parenting supports, but children and families of color face numerous challenges as a result of racism that impact their everyday life, which are exacerbated even more for children and families living in households with low income.
National data in the Strong Families domain include indicators of child and family well-being, including resilience and adverse childhood experiences, basic needs, including housing circumstances and receipt of TANF benefits among families in poverty, and child welfare, including child maltreatment and movement of infants and toddlers into and out of the foster care system. National averages and state counts indicate that collectively babies and toddlers are doing well or have made small gains in areas such as low percentages living in unsafe neighborhoods and low percentages of children experiencing housing instability. However, as reflected in the subgroup views the profile includes for several indicators, these gains may not be shared by all groups.
Key Indicators of Strong Families
Strong Families Policy in America
All Strong Families Indicators
Positive Early Learning Experiences
How are U.S. babies faring in Positive Early Learning Experiences?
Infants and toddlers learn through interactions with the significant adults in their lives and active exploration of enriching environments. The quality of infant and toddlers’ early learning experiences at home and in other care settings can impact their cognitive and social-emotional development, as well as early literacy. High-quality early childhood care can strengthen parents’ interactions with their children in the home learning environment and support parents’ ability to go to work or attend school. Equitable access to high-quality care across factors like race, ethnicity, and income ensures all infants and toddlers have the opportunity for optimal development; however, disparities in access to high-quality care remain across many states and communities in the United States.
National data in the Positive Early Learning Experiences domain include indicators related to child care quality, child exposure to learning experiences, and access to child care, in addition to the prevalence of developmental screenings and services. State averages indicate that babies and toddlers as a whole have made gains in developmental screenings. However, as reflected in the subgroup views the profile includes for several indicators, these gains may not be shared by all groups.
Key Indicators of Positive Early Learning Experiences
Positive Early Learning Experiences Policy in America
- Infants 16
- Infants and Younger Toddlers 6
- All age groups 1
- Infants 21
- Infants and Younger Toddlers 12
- All age groups 2
- CDA/state equivalent required 6
- No credential beyond high school 45