Posted by Brett Kincaid on July 25th 2012
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's (AECF) 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows Arkansas has improved in the nationwide child well-being ranking system to 42nd, up from 47th just one year ago. This year's revamped Data Book ranks states in four key domains: Economic Well-Being; Education; Family and Community; and Health, in addition to an overall ranking. Sixteen different indicators were used to determine each state's rank in the four domains, a change from previous annual rankings based on ten indicators. Arkansas has shown improvements in healthcare and education, proving that investments made by the state in those areas over the past few years-including commitments to pre-K programs and ARKids First-have paid off for Arkansas children.
The good news: a rank of 42nd shows marked improvement for the state, as Arkansas has ranked in the bottom five or six states since 2000. The bad news: in terms of our kids' economic well-being and their family and community environment (indicators like the number of children in single-parent families and the number of kids living in high-poverty areas), we could do much better.
According to the rankings, the number of children without health insurance is down 22 percent since 2008, due in no small part to the success of ARKids First. The number of child and teen deaths has decreased by 21 percent since 2005, and the number of teens who use drugs has gone down 27 percent in that same time. When it comes to education, more Arkansas children are attending pre-K programs and the number of eighth graders who are proficient in math has increased.
It is important to remember that the investments we make in our state's kids really do pay off. And we need to continue to make those investments in things like ARKids First, quality pre-K programs, and K-12 education. Of course, there are areas where we could do a lot more than we're currently doing - making sure we have quality afterschool and summer programs and promoting the development of our youngest and most vulnerable kids, those from birth to age three.
Nationwide, the Data Book shows that most states are not doing well when it comes to economic well-being indicators. Arkansas ranks 39th overall in that category. The number of children in poverty has increased by 12 percent since 2005. The number of children whose parents lack secure employment has also increased by 13 percent since 2008. The worldwide economic downturn is fully reflected in these numbers, driving much of the increases in poverty and unstable employment numbers.
The 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book indicators at a glance:
- 39th in Economic Well-Being (including children in poverty; children whose parents lack secure employment; children living in households with a high cost burden; and teens not in school and not working)
- 34th in Education (including children not attending preschool; fourth graders not proficient in reading; eighth graders not proficient in math; and high school students not graduating on time)
- 37th in Health (including low-birth weight babies; children without health insurance; child and teen deaths per 100,000; and teens who abuse drugs or alcohol)
- 45th in Family and Community (including children in single-parent families; children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma; children living in high-poverty areas; and teen births per 1,000)