State Of Babies Yearbook 2020

About this year’s report:

The littlest among us face big challenges—even further exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. The State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 digs into data disaggregated by race, income, and geographic settings to outline disparities where states need to improve support for our nation’s babies and families. Join as ZERO TO THREE Chief Policy Officer, Myra Jones-Taylor, and CEO of Robin Hood, Wes Moore, discuss the 2020 data and how we can work together to address racism underlying many of these challenges and help babies achieve their full potential. See how your state measures up at Please note this conversation was recorded prior to the unconscionable death of George Floyd and the ensuing movement for racial justice.

Telling the story of America’s babies is more important than ever. The State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 shows us that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the littlest among us faced big challenges, and that the policies and programs in their state can make a difference in their ability to reach their full potential. Most alarming, significant disparities across key indicators of well-being emphasize the big barriers babies of color face.

About State of Babies Yearbook: 2020

  • The State of Babies Yearbook bridges the gap between science and policy with national and state-by-state data on the well-being of America’s babies. Policymakers and advocates can use the data to identify and advance policies that produce the near-term support and long-term stability that babies and families need.
  • The Yearbook provides a snapshot of how babies are faring nationally and by state across nearly 60 indicators and policy domains in areas essential for a good start in life: Good Health, Strong Families and Positive Early Learning Experiences.
  • States are grouped into one of four tiers based on how they fare on selected indicators of well-being and policies that represent their progress towards assuring babies’ access to health care, paid leave, quality early learning and more. The tiers from bottom to top are: Getting Started (G), Reaching Forward (GR), Improving Outcomes (GRO) and Working Efficiently (GROW). While State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 continues to place states in tiers, it is important to not be overly focused on the ranking, but rather on the babies and dive deep to identify the needs and disparities within each state.
  • The Yearbook is a national and state resource from ZERO TO THREE, with data and indicator analysis powered by Child Trends. These indicators of infants, toddlers, and their families’ well-being tie into the three areas of ZERO TO THREE’s policy framework: Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences. The data were obtained from national datasets (e.g., the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and National Survey of Children’s Health) that provide reliable, ongoing and comparable information on all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The 2020 Yearbook includes new indicators as part of a roadmap to reach the best group of indicators to track over time. However, the indicators on which the tiers are based remain constant this year, using the same set as in 2019.
  • The 2020 Yearbook, along with issue-based briefs, provides an in-depth look into the substantial disparities and inequities among babies and families when examined by race/ethnicity, income, and geographic setting.


  • According to ZERO TO THREE’s State of Babies Yearbook: 2020, the U.S. ranks 32nd in relative child poverty among 38 economically advanced countries, with as many as 1 in 5–20 percent–of U.S. babies living in poverty.
  • Exploring the numbers by race and ethnicity presents a clearer picture, revealing that as many as 37 percent of Black babies and 30 percent of Hispanic babies nationally are living in poverty compared to 13 percent of White babies.
  • Because of historical and structural inequalities, children of color face some of the biggest obstacles, such as low birthweight, unstable housing, and limited access to quality child care.
  • The data are clear: the state where a baby is born makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life.
  • All states need to do better for babies. Even among states with high averages, significant disparities exist in the opportunities available to babies of color to thrive, often driven by historical and structural inequalities.
  • The current crisis has further exposed and exacerbated these disparities and structural barriers, which have harmful and life-altering effects that begin even before birth.

Why This Matters

  • There are 12 million infants and toddlers in the United States. Each of these young children is born with unlimited potential. They are our next generation of parents, workers, and leaders. The future of our nation depends on how we treat babies and their families today, and we can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child if our nation is to fully recover and be successful.
  • A baby’s brain develops faster between ages 0 to 3 than at any later point in life, forming more than 1 million new neural connections every second.
  • When babies have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.
  • When babies don’t get what their growing brains need to thrive, they don’t develop as they should. This leads to life-long developmental, educational, social and health challenges.
  • Yet even before the COVID-19 crisis, far too many babies faced persistent hardships that undermine their ability to grow and thrive. The pandemic will have lasting effects on these children, their families, and our nation as we recover and rebuild.
  • Every baby deserves to grow up strong and healthy. But by nearly every measure, children living in poverty and children of color face the biggest obstacles- such as low birthweight, unstable housing, and limited access to quality child care.

What We Can Do

  • The need to make the potential of every baby our national priority has never been more urgent. As State of Babies shows, the status quo for babies and families falls short and leaves them particularly vulnerable to crises, whether they be national or personal. To simply return to the way things were is unacceptable.
  • To do better for our babies and our nation’s future, we need Congress and state leaders to make babies a priority through policies built on the science of brain development and budgets that put babies and families first.
  • Recovery from the pandemic, which has exposed our frayed systems for children and families, presents a real opportunity to rebuild with stronger policies.
  • ZERO TO THREE created Think Babies to make the potential of every baby a national priority. When we Think Babies and invest in infants, toddlers and their families, we ensure a strong future for us all.
  • Think Babies is a call to action for policymakers to prioritize the needs of infants, toddlers and their families. Specifically, we call on policymakers at the federal and state levels to meet the five critical needs of babies to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic and build stronger systems for the future as some semblance of normal life returns:
    • Sustain child care and other early learning supports;
    • Ensure economic security;
    • Support strong families;
    • Support strong social-emotional health; and,
    • Meet basic needs for health and well-being.
  • Learn more about Think Babies and how you can get involved at


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