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New Report Compiles Data To Examine Status Of Girls In Wisconsin

Report Finds Higher Rates Of Depression But Also Civic Engagement

Students walking to school buses
Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

A new report from Alverno College in Milwaukee compiles wide-ranging data from several studies to reveal the status of girls in Wisconsin.

The report, the fourth installment, utilizes data from federal, state and local studies to give a comprehensive look at the lives of girls and young women — ages 10 to 19 — in order to better inform policy and programming.

According to the latest data, the status of girls in Wisconsin, as it can be for people themselves, is complicated. The report examines girls’ physical, mental, sexual and economic health; education; rates of incarceration and violence; substance abuse; and more.

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The report found girls are more likely to experience depression and anxiety than boys. In one study, half of the surveyed girls reported experiencing anxiety during the past 12 months. Compared to boys, girls are also more likely to experience bullying, including cyberbullying, and sexual and physical abuse.

Girls, however, are slightly more likely to earn a high school diploma. Consistent with national trends, the report found that teenage pregnancy and smoking have declined. Wisconsin youth are also less likely to abuse opioids than other teenagers nationwide.

Jodi Eastberg, executive director of Alverno College’s Research Center for Women and Girls, which has published the report since 2007, said that for the first time ever, they found girls spent more time on computers or video games than boys.

Alverno College

“And while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily positive or negative, when we combine that with their high rates of cyberbullying, that’s something we want to watch out for,” she said.

Also, for the first time ever, the report tracked political activity, and found that girls had more civic engagement than boys.

“Young black women are the most likely to vote out of any demographic,” Eastberg said.

Black girls are also more likely to live in poverty than girls of other races. Although one in five Wisconsin girls live in poverty, the report found the rate is 47.4 percent for black girls compared to 37.6 percent for Native American girls, 32.7 percent for Latinas, 20.4 percent for Asian girls and 9.3 percent for white girls.

Alverno College

Most of the issues examined in the report have systemic causes beyond girls’ individual control. But Eastberg said civic engagement among the younger generation gives her hope.

“While we see challenges, it’s also really inspiring to think about how those girls can transform our communities in the future,” she said.

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