Accentuating the Negative: The Mismatch Between Public Perception of Child Well-being and Official Statistics
- 83 Downloads
This paper reports findings from a series of polls designed to ascertain how well the American public understands the circumstances, characteristics, and living conditions of American children. We compare poll responses to official statistics to assess the accuracy of the public’s perceptions. With few exceptions, the results suggest a large gap between the public’s perception of children and official statistics and highlight a second finding—primarily, where misperceptions exist the public tends to perceive children’s circumstances to be worse than they actually are. Bivariate and multivariate analyses indicate that there are small but significant group differences by education, gender, age and community type in the public’s understanding of child well-being. Our results also suggest that perceptions of children may be shaped in part by an individual’s environment and personal experiences. Possible contributors to this public gap in knowledge, implications for the dissemination of statistical information on children, and public policy are discussed.
KeywordsPublic perception Child well-being Statistical literacy Public policy
We gratefully acknowledge research support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We thank Diane Colasanto for her advice in the development of questions. We also thank Julie Dombrowski for her computational assistance, as well as Andrew Rivers, Kristen Asmussen, Thomson Ling, and Kevin Cleveland for providing valuable technical support.
- Allen, J. P. (1988). Innumeracy: Mathematical illiteracy and its consequences (p. 1988). New York: Hill and Wang.Google Scholar
- Annie E Casey Foundation. (1999). Effective language for communicating children’s issues (published by the Coalition for America’s Children with the Benton Foundation, May).Google Scholar
- Applied Research Center at Georgia State University Poll. (1993). Storrs, Conn: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. June.Google Scholar
- Aubrun, A., & Grady, J. (2000). How Americans understand teens: Findings from cognitive interviews. In S. Bales (Ed.), Reframing youth issues. Washington, DC: Working Papers, Framework Institutute and Center for Communications and Community, UCLA.Google Scholar
- Bales, S. (2001). Reframing youth issues for public consideration and support. Washington, DC: Working Papers, Framework Institute and Center for Communications and Community, UCLA.Google Scholar
- Berkley Media Studies Group. (1997). Children’s health in the news. Washington: Benton Foundation.Google Scholar
- Bostrom, M. (2000). The 21st century teen: Public perception and teen reality. In S. Bales (Ed.), Reframing youth issues. Washington, DC: Working Papers, Framework Institute and Center for Communications and Community, UCLA.Google Scholar
- Brady, H. E., & Orren, G. R. (1992). Polling pitfalls: Sources of error in public opinion surveys. In T. E. Mann & G. R. Orren (Eds.), Media polls in American politics. Washington DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
- Chen, P., Kunkel, D., & Miller, P. (1999). The news media’s picture of children: A five year update and a focus on diversity. Oakland: Children Now.Google Scholar
- Child Trends. (2002). Public understanding of standard errors: A report to the kids count project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
- Child Trends DataBank. (2003). Available online at http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/eduskills/attendance/1HighSchoolDropout.htm. Retrieved (http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/eduskills/attendance/1HighSchoolDropout.htm).
- Child Trends Data Bank. (2006). Available online at http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/eduskills/attendance/1HighSchoolDropout.htm.
- Cohen, V. (1999). How to help reporters tell the truth. Paper presented at ASA-JSM, 1999.Google Scholar
- Council for Marketing and Opinion Research. (2002). CMOR respondents cooperation audits: Preliminary results. Port Jefferson: CMOR.Google Scholar
- De Navas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., & Mills, R. J. (2004). Income, poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2003. In Current Populations Reports. US Census Bureau: Washington DC.Google Scholar
- Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2002). “America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., & Ventura, S. J. (2009). Births: Preliminary data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports 57 (12). Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (1998). “Myth or fact? The real deal on teen sexuality.” Emerging Issues in Reproductive Health: A Briefing Series for Journalists.Google Scholar
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2008). “The public on requiring individuals to have health insurance.”Google Scholar
- Institute for Social Research Poll. (1999). Storrs, Conn: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.Google Scholar
- Johntson, L. D., Bachman, J. G., & O’Malley, P. M. (2006). Monitoring the future: Questionnaire responses form the nation’s high school seniors, 2005. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social research.Google Scholar
- Keintz-Knowles, K. E. (2000). Images of youth: A content analysis of adolescents in prime time entertainment programming. In S. Bales (Ed.), Reframing Youth Issues. Washington, DC: Working Papers, Framework Institute and Center for Communications and Community, UCLA.Google Scholar
- Kunkel, D. (1994). The news media’s picture of children. Oakland: Children Now.Google Scholar
- Louis Harris & Associates Poll. (1993). Storrs, Conn: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.Google Scholar
- McCombs, M. (2004). Setting the agenda: The mass media and public opinion. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- Moore, K. A. (1997). Criteria for indicators of child well-being. In R. Hauser, B. Brown & W. R. Prosser (Eds.), Indicators of children’s well-being. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- O’Hare, W. (2003). Perceptions and misperception about America’s children: The role of the print media. A KIDS COUNT Working Paper. Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Available online at http://www.aecf.org/kidscount/ohare_paper_on_media_6_26_03_final.pdf.
- Papillo, A. R., Franzetta, K., Manlove, J., Moore, K. A., Terry-Humen, E., & Ryan, S. (2002). Facts at a glance. Washington: Child Trends.Google Scholar
- Parker, M. A., Miller, P., Donegan, K., & Gilliam, F. D. (2001). The local television news media’s picture of children. Oakland: Children Now.Google Scholar
- Agenda, P. (1999). Kids these days ’99: What Americans really think about the next generation. New York: Public Agenda.Google Scholar
- Reutter, L., Harrison, M. J., & Neufeld, A. (2002). Public support for poverty-related policies. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 93(4), 297–302.Google Scholar
- Scales, P. C., Benson, P. L., Bartig, K., Struet, K., Moore, K. A., Lippman, L., et al. (2006). Keeping America’s promises to children and youth. Washington DC: Search Institute & Child Trends.Google Scholar
- Schield, M. (2000). Statistical literacy: Difficulties in describing and comparing rates and parentages. Paper presented at the Joint statistical Meeting of the American Statistical Association.Google Scholar
- Schmidley, A. D. (2001). Profile of the foreign-born population in the United States: 2000. In Current Population Reports. Washington DC: U.S. Census Bureau.Google Scholar
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents: United States, 1999–2000. Retrieved March 18, 2003 from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm.
- U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Statistics, National Center for education statistics. (2007). Dropout Rates in the U.S.: 2005. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. (1997). Characteristics and financial circumstances of AFDC Recipients FY 1996, aid to families with dependent children. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar