The State of Girls Report Shows Increasing Need for Investment in Girls

Although girls’ high school graduation rates have improved, obesity, drug use, and economic challenges are on the rise



Girl Scouts of the USA Press Room

New York, NY (February 6, 2017)—Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) today released findings from The State of Girls, an omnibus report on the overall well-being of girls in the United States. Compiled and released by GSUSA’s Girl Scout Research Institute, this third edition of The State of Girls focuses on national- and state-level trends across key indicators affecting girls’ overall well-being. The findings suggest that, regardless of an increase in high school graduation rates, economic conditions affecting girls in the United States have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. These conditions are leading to increased emotional and physical distress among girls, with obesity, marijuana use, and low self-esteem on the rise.

“Increased poverty rates among girls affects everything from their physical and psychological well-being to their perceptions of what they can achieve and become as adults,” said Kathy Hannan, GSUSA’s national board president. “Girls living in low-income households experience more challenges on nearly all indicators of health and well-being compared to girls living in higher-income households. And girls falling behind is bad news for our country, because it means that America will inevitably fall behind, too.”

A closer look at The State of Girls data reveals the following:

Health and Well-Being: Girls are struggling with obesity, marijuana use, and emotional health.

  • Obesity rates have increased for girls ages 2 to 19 from 15.9 percent in 2008 to 17.2 percent in 2014.
  • More girls are trying marijuana; about 37 percent of high school girls had ever tried marijuana in 2015, an increase from 34 percent in 2007.
  • Girls’ emotional health is at risk—a higher proportion of high school girls seriously considered suicide in 2015 (23 percent), compared to 2007 (19 percent). 

Demographics: The face of the American girl is changing.

  • American girls are more racially and ethnically diverse today than before the recession. About half of U.S. girls are white, and a quarter are Latina.
  • One-fourth (26 percent) of all school-age girls in the United States are a first- or second-generation immigrant. This number has risen since 2007 (when it was 23 percent).

Economics: Poverty rates for girls have risen since 2007.

  • In 2015, 19 percent of girls ages 5 to 17 lived in poverty, compared to 17 percent in 2007. Poverty rates increased for girls across all racial and ethnic groups.
  • In 2015, American Indian girls were the most likely to live in poverty (33 percent), followed by black girls (31 percent), Latinas (29 percent), multiracial girls (13 percent), Asian American girls (13 percent), and white girls (12 percent).

Education: More girls are graduating from high school.

  • The high school dropout rate has decreased for girls in recent years, particularly Latina girls.
    • In 2007, 8 percent of girls and women ages 16 to 24 had dropped out of high school, but by 2014, that figure decreased to 6 percent.
    • Latina youth experienced the largest decline in dropout rates during the same 2007–2014 period, from 18 percent to 9 percent.

States Where Girls Thrive*

  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Minnesota
  • Vermont
  • South Dakota

States Where Girls Struggle*

  • Nevada
  • Tennessee
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Mississippi

*According to key indicator measurements, including poverty rates and emotional and physical well-being

The silver lining? Higher graduation rates mean girls want to learn, and they want opportunities. In areas of the country where girls are faring the best, The State of Girls found that Girl Scouts, which bolsters and reinforces academic achievement, also has a robust presence.

“Giving girls the opportunity to achieve—no matter what obstacles they face—is what Girl Scouts is all about, and increasing the number of women in leadership positions is not a women’s issue; it’s an issue that matters to anyone who cares about the future of our nation and our world,” said Ms. Hannan.

Knowing that girls in lower socioeconomic-status homes are primed to make up the bulk of American girls, Girl Scouts is helping bolster their educational achievement—and encouraging all Americans to take a more active role in girls’ welfare. To read more about The State of Girls, learn how Girl Scouts transforms today’s girls into tomorrow’s leaders, or help further that work by making a donation, visit


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