Connecticut ranked seventh best state for child well-being

Connecticut is the seventh best state in the nation when it comes to overall child well-being, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 Kids Count Data Book.

The annual Kids Count Data Book reveals the status of child well-being in all 50 states, using an index comprised of 16 indicators, categorized into four domains:

  • Economic well-being.
  • Education.
  • Health.
  • Family and community.

According to the Kids Count Data Book, national child well-being trends reveal “positive and negative developments in child well-being,” with gains in education and health and setbacks in economic well-being and family and community domains.

Massachusetts took the top spot for overall child well-being this year, while Mississippi ranked last.

The Kids Count Data Book notes that all northeastern states — with the exception of Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York — ranked in the top 10 in terms of overall child well-being.

Economic well-being

Connecticut was ranked 2014’s 15th best state for children’s economic well-being.

“To help children grow into successful, productive adults, their parents need well-paying jobs, affordable housing and ability to invest in their children’s future,” according to Kids Count.

According to the Kids Count report, 23% of children in the United States — approximately 16,397,000 — were living in poverty in 2012, compared to 15% in Connecticut at the time.

Thirty-one percent of, or 23,101,000, children in the country had parents who lacked secure employment in 2012, compared to 28% of Connecticut’s children.

When it comes to “idle teens” — young people ages 16-19 who are not engaged in school or the workforce — they accounted for 1,404,000 or 8% of American teens in 2012.

According to Kids Count, “idle teens” are at high risk for experiencing negative outcomes as they transition to adulthood.

At 5%, Connecticut had the third lowest rate of idle teens, tied with Massachusetts Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota, in 2012.

Children living in households with a high housing cost burden was one indicator in which Connecticut exceeded the national average.

“This measure identifies the proportion of children living in households that spend more than 30% of their pretax income on housing,” according to the Kids Count report.

In 2012, 38% of children nationwide lived in such households, while 41% of Connecticut children did.

North Dakota ranked No. 1 in terms of economic well-being, while Mississippi ranked last.

Education

When it comes to children’s education, Connecticut was ranked the fifth best state in the nation.

“High-quality pre-kindergarten programs for three- and four-year-olds can improve school readiness, with the greatest gains accruing to the highest-risk children,” according to the Kids Count Data Book.

According to Kids Count, preschool attendance has increased by 34% over the past two decades, with help from Head Start and the expansion of state-funded programs.

However, many children — especially three-year-olds — continue to be left out, “exacerbating socioeconomic differences in education achievement,” according to Kids Count.

Between 2010 and 2012, approximately 54% of children in the United States did not attend preschool, according to Kids Count, compared to 37% of children in Connecticut.

In 2013, 66% of fourth graders nationwide were not proficient in reading, compared to 57% of children in Connecticut.

Compared to 66% eighth graders nationwide, 63% of children in Connecticut were not proficient in math.

Fourteen percent of high school students in Connecticut did not graduate on time between 2011 and 2012, according to Kids Count, compared to 19% of high school students nationwide.

In terms of education, Massachusetts ranked No. 1, while Nevada — which had the highest percentage of high school students not graduating — ranked last.

Health

Connecticut was ranked the eighth best state in terms of children’s health.

According to Kids Count, children’s health is “the foundation of their overall development, and ensuring that they are born healthy is the first step toward increasing the life chances of disadvantaged children.”

In 2012, 8% of newborns nationwide were born with low birth weights. In Connecticut, 7.9% of babies were low birth weight babies.

Approximately 30,000 children in Connecticut — roughly 4% of children in the state — did not have health insurance in 2012, compared to 7% of children nationwide.

“Despite increased unemployment and a decline in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage during the past several years, fewer children lacked access to health insurance coverage in 2012 than before the recession,” according to Kids Count.

“As a result of increased enrollment in public health insurance, 2 million more children had health insurance in 2012 than [in 2008].”

With approximately 149 deaths for every 100,000 child and teen, Connecticut had a child and teen death rate of 17 in 2010, according to Kids Count.

The child and teen death rate is the number of deaths of one- to 19-year-olds per 100,000 children in the age range.

Nationally, the child and teen death rate in 2010 was 26, or 20,482 deaths.

Connecticut, along with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, had the lowest death rate, while Montana had the highest, at 45 per 100,000 children and teens.

Connecticut had a higher percentage of teens abusing drugs or alcohol than the national average.

In Connecticut, 7% of the state’s teenagers, abused drugs or alcohol between 2011 and 2012, compared to 6% of teens nationwide.

The state with the best health ranking was Iowa, while the state with the worst ranking was Montana.

Family and community

Kids Count ranked Connecticut the ninth best state in terms of family and community.

“When children are nurtured and well cared for, they have better social-emotional and learning outcomes,” according to Kids Count.

“When communities have strong institutions and the resources to provide safety, good schools and quality support services, families and their children are more likely to thrive.”

According to Kids Count, approximately 35% of children lived in single-parent families in 2012. Connecticut’s children were close behind at 33%.

In 2012, 8% of Connecticut children lived in families where the household lacked a high school diploma, compared to 15% nationwide.

Approximately 13% of children in the United States lived in high-poverty areas between 2008 and 2012, compared to only 9% of children in Connecticut.

The last family and community indicator in the Kids Count Data Book is the teen birth rate.

According to the Kids Count Data Book, 305,388 babies were born to females ages 15-19 in 2012, translating into a birth rate of 29 births per 1,000 teens. This is half the rate in 1990, which saw 60 births per 1,000 teens.

In Connecticut, there were 1,889 teen births in 2012 — 15 births per 1,000 teens.

“Teenage childbearing can have long-term negative effects for both the mother and newborn,” according to Kids Count.

Not only are teens at higher risk of bearing low birth weight and pre-term babies, according to Kids Count, but “their babies are far more likely to be born into families with limited educational and economic resources, which function as barriers to future success.”

Kids Count notes that although the United States’ teen birth rate is at a historic low, the nation’s teen birth rate remains the highest among all affluent countries.

With only 1% of children living in areas of concentrated poverty and having one of the lowest teen birth rates in the country, New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in terms of family and community.

Mississippi, on the other hand, ranked last, with 28% of its children living in high-poverty areas and a teen birth rate of 46 births per 1,000 teens.

Click here to learn more about the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kids Count.