Ranking States on Improvement in Child Well-Being Since 2000

A KIDS COUNT Working Paper

Posted March 1, 2009
By William P. O’Hare of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Vicki L. Lamb of Duke University and North Carolina Central University
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O Hare Lamb March 2009 Paper cover 2022


The KIDS COUNT® Data Book uses ten key indicators to consistently measure the educational, social, economic, and health status of children on a state-by-state basis. These indicators are reported individually and used collectively to rank states in terms of absolute child well-being. The KIDS COUNT measures reflect a range of experiences from birth through early adulthood, and they are consistently measured over time and across space — permitting legitimate comparisons across states.

Findings show that — nationwide — child well-being generally improved from 2000 to 2005. However, the report explores the significant variation found across states and across indicators. Among the states that improved the most, no regional patterns were detected. Conversely, the report highlights several characteristics shared by those states that showed the most decline.

The report notes that year-to-year changes are often quite small, and gains made during one year are often negated by declines the following year. Therefore, by focusing on a five-year span, this report reflects solid, reliable data and paints a more definitive picture of child well-being across states.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

Nationwide child well-being improved by 5% between 2000 and 2005.

Nationwide, child well-being improved by 5% between 2000 and 2005, but closer analysis shows significant variation across states and across indicators. Four states improved by more than 10%, but four states showed a decline of at least 10% in child well-being. While there were no strong regional patterns detected among the states that improved the most, the states that performed the worst (Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont) were all rural — with disproportionately non-Hispanic, white populations.