Children's Environmental Index ranks best and worst U.S. cities

San Diego receives poor scores in nationwide study of environmental quality for children

provided by Zero Population Growth
new report released by Zero Population Growth puts San Diego in the bottom third of the nation's cities in terms of environmental quality for children. The Children's Environmental Index rates 207 U.S. cities on a broad range of factors that influence the well-being of children. With poor scores in air quality and education, San Diego has a final rank of 154th in national comparisons and ranks 20th among the 44 California cities that the study examined. Twelve of the bottom 20 cities were in California.
Each city was scored on 14 indicators and then ranked in relation to all other cities. ZPG researchers gathered data on education, crime, pollution, percent of children living in poverty, and other environmental indicators. "Environment" is used in its broadest sense to include both the social and physical conditions that influence a child's development.

Bigger is not better

The Index findings show that, in general, our nation's largest cities provide the poorest environment for children. The average population of the 20 lowest scoring cities was 438,000 people while the 20 highest scoring cities had average populations of only 146,000. Lower scores in larger cities generally reflect higher rates of poverty, unemployment, crime, teen pregnancy, school drop-outs, and pollution - conditions that obviously create a poor environment for children.
"But simply reducing the population of our cities is not the answer," says ZPG Board President Dianne Dillon-Ridgley. "Moving people into the suburbs and putting more commuters on the highways will only make environmental problems worse. We need to find comprehensive, long-term solutions to slow population growth while working to address problems that face people today."
Index data reveals the interrelated nature of many urban problems. For example, the ZPG study revealed a strong correlation between poverty and other social problems. Cities with a high percentage of children living in poverty were much more likely to have high unemployment rates, crime rates, and drop-out rates. An extremely high correlation was found between child poverty and births to teens.
On average, 22 percent of children in the cities ZPG studied currently live below the poverty line. The Index found that 33 cities have more than one-third of their children living in poverty and 10 cities have more than 40 percent. Eight of the 10 cities with more than 40 percent of children in poverty also have more than 20 percent of all births born to teenage girls.
"High teen pregnancy rates are related to lack of educational attainment and opportunities," says Dillon-Ridgley. "This, in turn, leads to poor job skills and unemployment and more child poverty. The Index challenges citizens to examine factors that affect this vicious cycle of poverty and population growth and reevaluate community priorities. In the long run, communities that can stabilize population and ensure sustainable development will enjoy a higher quality of life than communities that do not."
The U.S. population is currently about 260 million and growing by more than 3 million people a year, a rate faster than any other industrialized nation. The United States is the third most populated nation in the world, after China and India, and set to double to 500 million by 2050. This exploding population exacerbates many of the problems that already plague our cities and is intensified by the fact that Americans produce more waste and consume more natural resources than any other nation.

Toughest on children

While population pressures affect everyone, they take their greatest toll on children. Children are more susceptible to pollution because they spend more time outdoors, breathe more air per pound of body weight, and have fewer detoxifying enzymes than adults. They are more vulnerable to malnutrition and disease and less able to defend themselves against violence and neglect.
The Children's Environmental index pinpoints areas of failure and success and gives people solid data they can use to facilitate changes in their cities. The Index is not intended to suggest that people should relocate from one city to another. Rather, the Index should be viewed as a vehicle to examine current conditions and plan improvements accordingly.
The Children's Environmental Index was produced by Zero Population Growth, the nation's largest grassroots organization concerned with the impacts of population growth. ZPG supports a comprehensive approach to reducing population pressures, including access to safe and affordable contraceptives, reproductive choice, school-based sexuality education and health services, international support for basic education and voluntary family planning programs, adoption of green technologies and recycling programs, and adoption of a national population policy. In combination with environmentally responsible personal choices such as reducing consumption and having smaller families, these actions can help to ensure a quality environment for present and future generations.
Copies of the Children's Environmental Index are $7.50 each plus $1.50 postage and handling ($9.00 total). Checks should be made payable to ZPG and sent to: ZPG Publications, 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 or VISA/Mastercard orders can be placed by calling 202-332-2200. ZPG speakers are available upon request to discuss the Index and population issues.

Factors used in ranking the cities
                                      High/Low Average San Diego
Factor                                 Score    Score    Score

Social/Economic Factors 9.8/0.7 4.5 6.0 Percentage of Children in Poverty Unemployment Rate Percentage of Births to Teens Crime 9.9/0.2 7.1 7.3 Property Crime Rate Violent Crime Rate Education 9.2/1.2 5.5 4.9 Student-Teacher Ratio Per Pupil Expenditures on Education High School Drop-Out Rate Toxics 100/2.8 8.8 9.3 Toxic Releases Number of Superfund Sites Air 9.8/0.0 6.3 4.2 Number of Days with Unhealthy Air Average Pollution Standard Index Water 10.0/3.4 8.0 7.5 # of Safe Drinking Water Violations Per Capita Water Use

The Index winners ... and losers


City                  Score  Rank

Madison, WI 8.9 1 Burlington, VT 8.8 2 Stamford, CT 8.7 3 Fargo, ND 8.7 4 Lincoln, NE 8.6 5 Overland Park, KS 8.6 6 Sioux Falls, SD 8.5 7 Livonia, MI 8.5 8 Green Bay, WI 8.5 9 Virginia Beach, VA 8.4 10 Cedar Rapids, IA 8.2 11 Sterling Heights, MI 8.1 12 Billings, MT 8.1 13 Lubbock, TX 8.1 14 Sunnyvale, CA 8.1 15 Des Moines, IA 8.1 16 Raleigh, NC 8.0 17 Hampton, VA 8.0 18 Boise City, ID 8.0 19 Plano, TX 8.0 20


City                  Score  Rank

Baton Rouge, LA 5.7 188 Tampa, FL 5.7 189 Gary, IN 5.7 190 Oxnard, CA 5.6 191 Miami, FL 5.6 192 Stockton, CA 5.6 193 Moreno Valley, CA 5.6 194 Fresno, CA 5.5 195 Ontario, CA 5.4 196 Detroit, MI 5.4 197 St. Louis, MI 5.3 198 Riverside, CA 5.3 199 Atlanta, GA 5.3 200 Pomona, CA 5.2 201 Los Angeles, CA 5.2 202 Inglewood, CA 5.1 203 El Monte, CA 5.1 204 Long Beach, CA 5.1 205 Newark, NJ 5.0 206 San Bernardino, CA 4.1 207