Measuring Social Disparities: A Modified Approach to the Index of Child Well-Being (CWI) for Race-Ethnic, Immigrant-Generation, and Socioeconomic Groups with New Results for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics


The FCD Index of Child Well-Being (CWI) provides a national composite measure for monitoring change in the quality of life of America’s children by indicating the average amount of change that children experience between a baseline year and a subsequent year (Land, Lamb, and Mustillo, 2001; Land, 2005a, 2005b). The method also has been implemented for whites, blacks, and Hispanics to assess trends for each group individually (Land, Lamb, and Mustillo, 2001). To assess disparities across groups, the gaps separating whites from other race-ethnic groups have been calculated as a percentage of the baseline disparity in 1985 set to a value of 100 (Land, Lamb, and Mustillo, 2001), but this measure cannot show whether disparities have been eliminated, or how much change would be required to eliminate disparities. To overcome this limitation, research presented here offers a modified methodology that measures both levels and disparities in 1985, and from this starting point measures subsequent trends in levels and disparities. Future research will explore disparities among children distinguished by immigrant and socioeconomic circumstances of their families.

Methodology for the Current CWI

The current CWI is calculated with data for 28 key national indicators of child well-being that measure seven quality of life domains. The numerical value of the index for a given year can be calculated in four steps (Land, Lamb, and Mustillo, 2001; Land, 2005a, 2005b). First, assign a value of 100 to each indicator for the baseline year. Second, for a subsequent year calculate the percentage change from the baseline year for that indicator. Thus, if the numerical value of an indicator increases by 4 percent between the baseline and a subsequent year, the trend is reflected by an increase in the value of the indicator from 100 in the baseline year to 104 in the subsequent year. Third, for a specific year equally weight the values for the indicators in a domain (calculate the arithmetic mean) to obtain an average change value for the domain as a whole. The seven domains are (1) family economic well-being, (2) health, (3) safety/behavioral concerns, (4) educational attainments, (5) community connectedness, (6) social relationships, and (7) emotional/spiritual well-being. Fourth, for a specific year equally weight the values of each domain (calculated the arithmetic mean of the values for the seven domains) to obtain the overall CWI value for the year. Thus, the CWI is an evidence-based measure indicating the average amount of change that was experienced by children across the seven domains between a baseline year and a subsequent year.