Minnesota in Focus: The KIDS COUNT Chart-topper Talks Success

Posted June 21, 2016
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog minnesota in focus 2016

For the sec­ond year in a row, Min­neso­ta topped the nation’s KIDS COUNT Index for over­all child well-being. The state also cap­tured top-10 spots — No. 1 in health; No. 3 in eco­nom­ic well-being; No. 6 in edu­ca­tion and No. 4 in fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty — for all data domains under review. 

That’s a lot to cel­e­brate. But ask Stephanie Hogen­son, research and pol­i­cy direc­tor of the Children’s Defense Fund-Min­neso­ta, to pick a sin­gle point of pride, and she doesn’t miss a beat. 

We at the Children’s Defense Fund-Min­neso­ta are par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of our state’s low unin­sured rate among Gen­er­a­tion Z,” says Hogen­son. Being healthy is the foun­da­tion for suc­cess in so many areas, and it has so many impli­ca­tions in a child’s devel­op­ment — social­ly, aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and developmentally.”

Hogen­son should know. She grew up in a low-income house­hold with­out health insur­ance after ele­men­tary school. I saw the stress my par­ents expe­ri­enced when I got sick or hurt,” she recalls. I know what it’s like to be sick and not be able to go to the doc­tor.” As an unin­sured child, Hogen­son remem­bers hav­ing to sign spe­cial waivers — or miss out alto­geth­er — when it came to going on field trips or play­ing sports. I had lim­its — not choic­es,” she says.

Today, both nation­al­ly and in Min­neso­ta, this sce­nario isn’t as like­ly for Gen­er­a­tion Z kids. Unin­sur­ance rates across the coun­try dropped 40% from 2008 to 2014, accord­ing to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book. This means 4.4 mil­lion kids — or 6% of all chil­dren — now lack health insur­ance nation­wide. In Min­neso­ta dur­ing this same time­frame, unin­sur­ance rates among kids dropped 38%. Today, 49,000 chil­dren lack health insur­ance statewide. 
Hogen­son is cel­e­brat­ing these KIDS COUNT mile­stones with respon­si­ble caveats: low-income fam­i­lies, fam­i­lies of col­or, and Amer­i­can Indi­an fam­i­lies in Min­neso­ta are still strug­gling — and expe­ri­enc­ing sta­t­ic or wors­en­ing pover­ty rates. It’s becom­ing more and more dif­fi­cult for these fam­i­lies to pro­vide for their chil­dren,” she says. 

Still, there’s hope. Our Gen­er­a­tion Z health gains tell us that we’ve made some smart invest­ments and that, with com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic pol­i­cy change, we can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren,” says Hogenson.

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