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African-American students disproportionately face a set of barriers to success that researchers call Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). These traumas range from community violence to neglect at home, often compounded by high levels of poverty.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACEs are linked to risky health behaviors and low life potential and early death. “As the number of ACEs increase, so does the risk for these outcomes,” the CDC says.

Here are some statistics to quantify the challenges:



The share of American children living in poverty has declined slightly since 2010, but the poverty rate has changed little for Black children. Overall, 20 percent of children in the United States lived in poverty in 2013 – down from 22 percent in 2010. Among Black children, however, the rate held steady at about 38 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

Baltimore protests Freddie Gray's death

Source: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty


Maltreatment Rate

Black children are more likely to have emotionally traumatic experiences impacting their childhood, such as abuse or neglect, the death of a parent or witnessing domestic violence. The child maltreatment rate was 14.2 per 1,000 Black children and 8 per 1,000 for White children, according to US News & World Report.



Only 5.7 percent of Boston African-American high school students surveyed “feel safe in the community,” a Boston University School of Education study found.

Chicago crime

Source: Chicago Tribune / Getty


Criminal Justice in Schools

An Education Week study says that Black students are arrested in school at disproportionately high levels in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In most of the jurisdictions with disproportionate arrests of Black students, the disparities are significant. In 28 states, the share of arrested students who are Black is at least 10 percentage points higher than their share of enrollment in schools with at least one arrest. In 10 of those states, that gap is at least 20 percentage points.



Boston University School of Education research found that 61 percent of Philadelphia African-American youths surveyed said high school students are impacted by family members who use drugs.



Gentrification is a source of concern for 44 percent of Black teens in Boston surveyed, as well as a source of stress for Black teenagers in Denver, Boston University School of Education researchers found.


Access to healthy food

Only 27 percent of Boston teens surveyed by Boston University School of Education said they have access to healthy and affordable food.

High school student eating pizza in school cafeteria

Source: Will & Deni McIntyre / Getty


According to a Boston University School of Education study, 63 percent of Chicago youths surveyed said they are discriminated against because of their race.


SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pew Research Center, US News & World Report, Education Week, Boston University School of Education


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