The 31st edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT® Data Book describes how children across the United States were faring before the coronavirus pandemic began.
This year’s publication continues to deliver the Foundation’s annual state rankings and the latest available data on child well-being. It also identifies multi-year trends — comparing statistics from 2010 to 2018. As always, policymakers, researchers and advocates can continue using this information to help shape their work and build a stronger future for children, families and communities.
Data over a recent period of eight or so years reveal encouraging trends in child well-being nationally, with improvements documented in 11 out of the 16 indicators.
In 2018 — the latest year of data available — more parents were economically secure and lived without a high housing cost burden. In addition, more teens graduated from high school and delayed childbearing and children’s health insurance coverage continued to be something to celebrate.
Broadly speaking, kids nationwide experienced gains in the Economic Well-Being domain and promising-but-mixed results in the Health, Education, and Family and Community domains. The positive strides realized — driven by effective policies and achieved before the coronavirus pandemic — serve as an encouraging reminder that the nation can advance the substantial work now needed to improve the prospects of its youngest generation.
This year, New England states hold two of the top three spots for overall child well-being. Massachusetts ranks first, followed by New Hampshire and Minnesota. Louisiana (48th), Mississippi (49th) and New Mexico (50th) are the three lowest-ranked states.
States in Appalachia, as well as the Southeast and Southwest — where families have the lowest levels of household income — populate the bottom of the overall rankings. In fact, except for California and Alaska, the 18 lowest-ranked states are in these regions.
Despite documented gains for children of all races and income levels, the nation’s racial inequities proved deep and stubbornly persistent during the reporting period, according to the data. The nation failed to provide African American, American Indian and Latino children with the support necessary to thrive while states failed to dismantle barriers facing many children of color. Not surprisingly, nearly all index measures indicated that children with the same potential experienced disparate outcomes.
Black children were significantly more likely to live in single-parent families and high-poverty neighborhoods. American Indian kids were almost three times more likely than the average child to lack health insurance and live in resource-limited neighborhoods. And Latino children ran the greatest risk of not attending school when they were young and living with a head of household who lacked a high school diploma.
The Foundation derives a composite index of overall child well-being for each state by combining data across four domains: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health and (4) Family and Community. These composite scores are then translated into a state ranking for child well-being.
To help children grow into prepared, productive adults, parents need jobs with family-sustaining pay, affordable housing and the ability to invest in their children’s future.
The early years of children’s lives set the foundation for their lifelong success. Closing significant academic achievement gaps is vital to ensuring that the nation’s future workforce can continue to compete on a global scale.
Good health is central to a child’s overall development, and ensuring that kids are born healthy is an important first step toward lifelong success.
Children who live in nurturing families and supportive communities have stronger personal connections and realize higher academic achievements.