Testing the Validity of the KIDS COUNT State-Level Index of Child Well-Being

Posted January 11, 2007
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau
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This report compares two state-level indices of child well-being. The first index is a composite of 10 key indicators of child well-being from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2006 KIDS COUNT® Data Book. Casey has published this index every year since 1990.

The second quality-of-life index is based on 25 indicators reflecting seven specific domains of children’s well-being. Many of these indicators are only available at the state level for one year, and therefore cannot be included in the KIDS COUNT index, which is updated yearly.

The comparison is designed to answer two questions:

  1. How well does the 10-item KIDS COUNT index capture key state-level variations in children’s quality of life that are reflected in the broader 25-item index?
  2. Why do some state rankings show marked differences between the KIDS COUNT index and the broader quality-of-life index?

The answers to these questions indicate that the KIDS COUNT index provides a good approximation of children’s overall quality of life across the 50 states. However, two areas of child well-being covered in the 25-item index — 1) emotional and spiritual well-being; and 2) safety and behavioral factors — are weakly or negatively correlated with the KIDS COUNT index.

Other findings from this research include:

States in the West generally performed better on the KIDS COUNT index while states in the eastern half of the United States performed better on the 25-item index.

Several states in the eastern United States had relatively low rates of drug and alcohol abuse, which contributed to their higher 25-item index ranking. In the West, states tended to perform worse in the 25-item index because of poorer health and educational outcomes.

Two states — California and Nevada — ranked more than 10 spots better on the KIDS COUNT index versus the 25-item index. Three states — Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee — ranked over 10 spots worse on the KIDS COUNT index versus the 25-item index.

About the Series

This publication is part of the KIDS COUNT Working Paper series, which elevates discussions about data gaps, results and trends related to the KIDS COUNT database.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

It’s official: The 10-item KIDS COUNT index is great — with room for improvement

How does the 10-item KIDS COUNT index compare to the 25-item quality-of-life index? Generally speaking, it provides a good approximation of children’s overall quality of life across the 50 states. But there is room for improvement, according to this report. If the KIDS COUNT index were to grow, it should add a measure in one of two areas: 1) safety and behavioral well-being; or 2) emotional and spiritual well-being. Both areas reflect important dimensions of children’s lives that are not currently represented in the 10-item index.