Meredith College’s Status of Girls in North Carolina Report Released

Meredith College’s first report on “The Status of Girls in North Carolina” was released on March 11, during the North Carolina Women’s Roundtable in Greensboro, N.C.

“The Status of Girls in North Carolina” offers for the first time a detailed compilation of data that documents factors that impact girls’ lives within the state.

“This report identifies particular attributes of North Carolina girls’ lives in the 21st century that we should celebrate, and also those we should mobilize to change,” said Meredith College President Jo Allen. “At the very least, we must realize that as girls thrive, they create safer, more affluent, healthier, better educated and more stable families and communities, where all people can flourish.”

Allen and Assistant Professor of Sociology Amie Hess, primary author of “The Status of Girls in North Carolina” report, presented the report at the N.C. Women’s Roundtable.

Meredith’s report consists of seven major subsections including demographics, education, media engagement, physical health, mental health, sexual health and leadership and engagement. The report highlights areas in which girls in North Carolina are making strides, areas in which improvement is needed and areas of disparity among girls.

Report highlights include:

Demographics and Poverty
Girls in North Carolina are being raised in increasingly diverse family structures with increasingly diverse incomes. Poverty rates among North Carolina's girls are high, but not all girls are equally at risk for living in poverty. One in three African American, Latina and American Indian girls ages 5-17 are living in poverty; among girls under 5 years old, the number jumps to nearly 50%. Children growing up with a single mother are likely to be classified as poor or low-income. In North Carolina, almost 21% of families are headed by a single mother, and in 2011, over 44% of those families lived below the poverty line.

Education
In the 2011-12 academic year, more than two-thirds of girls in elementary and middle school passed End of Grade (EOG) examinations in science, math and reading. The passing rate for EOG exams taken by African American and Latina girls in elementary and middle school is lower than that of white and Asian girls of the same age. The gap in achievement persists into high school, but it does narrow. Girls throughout the state are overcoming the stereotype that they are either not interested or not skilled in science or math. Three out of four girls in North Carolina's high schools passed End of Course examinations in Biology and Algebra I, and young women make up nearly half of the students enrolled in the state's science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-focused high schools. The dropout rate in North Carolina has been on the decline since 2005, but a girl's likelihood of dropping out of school varies considerably based on her race or ethnicity.

Physical Health
With a national emphasis on childhood obesity, the physical health of girls in North Carolina is a key component to determining their overall status. Rates of obesity across the state have held steady over the previous decade, while rates of girls considered overweight are on the rise. However, the rate of girls describing themselves as overweight is higher than the number of girls who are classified as such. These girls are susceptible to developing risky and problematic behaviors to combat what may or may not be an actual weight problem.

Hess called the report an important first step, and notes the importance of gathering more research on the lives of girls in North Carolina.

“The girls of North Carolina will become the women of North Carolina,” Hess said. “We know that when women succeed, families and communities succeed.”

At the North Carolina Women’s Roundtable, “The Status of Girls in North Carolina” report was released along with the North Carolina Council for Women’s “Status of Women in North Carolina” report. This report includes new data on economic security/poverty, employment/earnings, health/well-being and political participation.

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Melyssa Allen
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