What is "The State of Girls" in 2017?

by Leah Silverberg

Since the Great Recession the United States has experience a lot of demographic, social, economic, and technological changes.  In a new report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends, examines trends in girls’ economic, physical, and emotional health, as well as participation in extracurricular activities and education compared to results from ten years ago. To launch the report, Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Honorary Congressional Host Committee members Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), to host a briefing to discuss the results. Speakers at the briefing included Alice Hockenbury, Girl Scouts Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy; Kamla Modi, Ph.D., Senior Researcher for the Girl Scout Research Institute; Makaa Ngwa-Suh, Program Services Manager for Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital; Rachel Tabakman, Girl Scouts Public Policy Manager; and Summer Berry, Girl Scout Ambassador from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Speakers discussed the results of the report, how the information provided can be used to influence policy, what Girl Scouts with STEM education programming, and how their programming is helping girls. This report series is the first of its kind to focus on the health and wellbeing of girls, and while some of the findings suggest positive trends for girls now, other results show that more needs to be done to help girls reach their full potential. 

Outlined in the briefing and the report, more girls today are living in poverty and low-income households than in 2007, and more than half of black/African American (58 percent), Hispanic/Latina (61 percent), and American Indian (61 percent) girls are considered low-income. This is especially important considering girls that live in poverty and low-income households face many challenges that affect their physical and emotional health, and opportunities for academic achievement. Furthermore, all girls are more at risk for obesity (17 percent) and suicidal ideation (23 percent of high school girls) than in 2007 (16 percent and 19 percent).

While this is troubling information, there is good news too! Overall, girls are engaging in less risky behaviors than in 2007, with fewer girls having tried cigarettes and alcohol.  Additionally, reading and math proficiency has improved, and the high school dropout rate has decreased in recent years (with the largest decrease for Hispanic/Latina girls dropping from 18 percent to 9 percent).

This report focuses on national data, however, the Girl Scouts Research Institute has also published The United States of Girls-an interactive map of how your state is ranked in on the “Index of Girls’ Well-Being” and what Girl Scouts are doing within your state to advocate for girls.  The results from this report are not prescriptive, and do not dictate what the future may hold for girls in the United States.  Programs that operate in out-of-school time, like Girl Scouts and afterschool programs, currently and will continue to play an important role in supporting girls nationally.

Interested in learning more about The State of Girls? Read the full report or join the Afterschool Alliance, lead researchers from the Girl Scout Research Institute, and speakers from Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and Girls on the Run International for a webinar February 23 (1pm ET) to discuss the results and talk about what is being done to help girls thrive. 



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