• March/April 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 2

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Three Recent Studies Rank Child Well-Being in the U.S.

The Children's Defense Fund, the Urban Institute, and the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire have weighed in on the state of the nation's children.

2000 Children in the States is the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) annual compilation of data on key children's indicators in each State. (Editor's note: the original link is no longer available. More data can be found at www.childrensdefense.org/data/childreninthestates/ default.aspx). The State profiles are meant as tools for planning and action. Readers can compare how their State's data measures up to the national average, find the amount of available State funds, and get a list of quotable "moments" for their State's children, e.g. "Every 5 minutes a baby was born into poverty."

CDF's rankings measured children's health coverage, babies born to mothers who received early prenatal care, infant mortality, babies born with low birthweight, child immunizations for two-year-olds, children living in poverty, child support collected when assigned to the State, and State spending per student for public elementary and secondary pupils.

The States that appeared most often in CDF's Top 10 Best rankings were:

  • Vermont
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts
  • Connecticut
  • Maine

The States that appeared most often in CDF's Worst 10 Rankings were:

  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • District of Columbia
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

Focusing on 1999 data from 13 States, the Urban Institute's Snapshots of America's Families II, examines changes in family economic well-being; health insurance, access, and health status; and family environment and child well-being (http://newfederalism.urban.org/nsaf/snapshots_index.html). The survey compares data collected in 1997 and highlights the experiences of low-income families.

Although the study found that the income gap between black and white adults grew, as did the health insurance gap between low-income Hispanic and white adults, the strong economy contributed to the following good news:

  • adult and child poverty rates fell
  • more single parents became employed
  • more families could afford food
  • more adults received health insurance coverage from their employers
  • more children were living with two parents

The University of New Hampshire's Family Research Laboratory provides an alternative way of ranking States in child well-being (http://www.unh.edu/frl/pdf2/kidscount.pdf). Their study argues that the Kids Count Data Book, published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares data from one point in time (1996) and does not take into account demographics. The Family Research Laboratory adjusted the Kids Count State rankings on 10 indicators based on percent change from 1985 to 1996. It also adjusted scores based on racial composition, specifically percent of black children in each State.

These two methodologies revealed different images of child well-being in each State. When ranked according to the percent change in the indicator over an 11-year period:

  • Utah ranked first, Alaska second, and Maine third.
  • New Hampshire fell from first to ninth.
  • Massachusetts and Connecticut fell from the top quartile in the original Kids Count ranking to the bottom quartile.
  • District of Columbia remained at the bottom of the ranks.
  • All Southern States, with the exception of Louisiana, moved out of the bottom quartile rankings.

When States were ranked after controlling for the percentage of black children:

  • Maryland rises to the rank of number one.
  • No States in the deep South remained in the bottom quartile rankings.

To order print copies of these reports, contact:

  • Children's Defense Fund: 202-662-3665
  • Urban Institute: 202-261-5709
  • Family Research Laboratory: 603-862-1888
Related Items

For Federal statistics on children and families, see these three annual publications, available through the U.S. Government Printing Office (202-512-1800) and online via the websites below:

  • America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2000 (http://childstats.gov/ac2000/ac00.asp -- this link is no longer available)
  • Child Health USA 2000 (http://www.mchirc.net/pdf%20docs/chusa00.pdf)
  • Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children & Youth 2000 (http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/00trends/index.htm)

See these back issues of the Children's Bureau Express (http://cbexpress.acf.hhs.gov) for other articles on the status of U.S. children:

  • "DHHS Report Takes First Close Look at Child Welfare Outcomes in States" (September 2000)
  • "Casey Foundation Report Evaluates the Well-Being of U.S. Children" (July 2000)
  • "Report Ranks Nations by Status of Mothers, Children" (June 2000)
  • "Census Data Shows Latino Children Living in Poverty" (April 2000)

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