Idaho ranks 20th in overall child well-being

Like children throughout the United States, Idaho’s kids continue to see setbacks in their economic well-being, but have seen gains in education and health.

That's according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book released Wednesday by the foundation.

The annual report ranks the Gem State 20th in overall child well-being.

The data book assesses states using indicators of child well-being organized into four domains: family and community, education, economic well-being and health.

Idaho’s weakest domain is education, in which it ranks 30th.

“We know that Idaho’s children need to read well by fourth grade so that they can succeed in school and go on to have productive careers. Children who are not reading proficiently by this measure are less likely to graduate on time from high school and enroll in college,” said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho KIDS COUNT, in a press release.

She said by 2018, it is projected that 61 percent of jobs in Idaho will require postsecondary education. Currently, only 32 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 in Idaho have an associate’s degree or higher.

Idaho has seen significant improvements, however, in preschool attendance (ranked 45th) and the percentage of eighth graders who are proficient in math (ranked 20th) between 2005 and 2010. While U.S. reading scores improved significantly during the six years examined, Idaho’s fourth grade reading scores were stagnant and the state ranks 26th in this indicator.

“Investment in an educated work force is our most powerful tool to drive economic development," Necochea said.

Idaho ranked strongest in the family and community domain, at 11th in the nation, although the state is losing ground.

Idaho has a relatively low percentage of children in single-parent families, but this increased from 23 percent to 25 percent between 2005 and 2010.

While Idaho has a small percentage of children living in areas of concentrated poverty, this increased three-fold to 3 percent.

Idaho’s children and families continue to struggle in economic terms.

In 2010, 31 percent of Idaho’s children lived in households where neither parent had secure, full-time employment — an increase from 26 percent in 2008.

The state also saw a significant increase in the percentage of children living in households with a high housing cost burden, from 30 percent to 36 percent. Idaho ranked 26th in the nation when it comes to economic well-being.

In the health domain, Idaho ranked 28th. More children in Idaho have health insurance, although the state still ranks a low 43rd on this indicator. Additionally, fewer teens are abusing alcohol or drugs (ranked 25th). The percentage of low-birthweight babies and child and teen death rates in Idaho also decreased, although not significantly.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a national nonprofit that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in the United States. Idaho KIDS COUNT is a Boise-based nonprofit community research and advocacy group that aims to improve outcomes for Idaho's children. Idaho KIDS COUNT receives funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Online: KIDS COUNT Data Center

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