INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: State of the nation's youth

Monday, February 18, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:52 a.m. CST, Monday, February 18, 2013

COLUMBIA — Get them while they’re young.

That’s the plan proposed by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address. Together with a raft of other domestic initiatives, the president proposed federal backing for state pre-kindergarten education programs to a joint session of Congress last week.

Obama cited multiple studies as evidence of the positive effect early education can have on important measures later in life, including teen pregnancy, juvenile crime and high school dropout rates. In addition to the wider social benefits, the president predicted real economic returns: seven-fold savings on the ledgers of other government programs for every dollar spent in early education. Studies have shown children with a coveted pre-school diploma have higher median incomes, higher levels of home ownership and lower arrest rates than their peers.

This dashboard graphic collates some of the most recent statistics available on all of these factors to give a snapshot of the state of the youth in America in the last decade.

Statistics sources

It’s important to remember none of these statistics are presented in relationship to one another, necessarily. The statistician’s adage applies: Correlation does not imply causation. For example, a jump in pre-K students generally wouldn’t cause better study habits among high-schoolers the same year.

All statistics are calculated at the state level. Rate metrics, therefore, may be inaccurate when aggregated at the national level, i.e., high school dropout rate, pre-K enrollment and state funding levels per student.

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