New Kids Count Report Ranks States on Child Well-Being
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released their 2018 Kids Count Data Book – the annual report that tracks state and national trends related to child well-being. Louisiana has moved down to 49th out of the 50 states in overall child well-being—a stunning statistic.Louisiana is ranked behind Mississippi (48th), and ahead of only New Mexico (50th).
Equally stunning is the number of children in our state who live in poverty—29%. This is in contrast to 19% of children nationwide, and an increase from 27% of children in Louisiana living in poverty in 2010.
As noted by the National Center for Children in Poverty, childhood poverty is consistently linked to academic failure and poor health outcomes. As early as 24 months, children in low-income families have been found to show lags in cognitive and behavioral development compared to their peers in higher-income families. Other risk factors, such as living in a single-parent family or low parent education levels, especially when combined with poverty, can markedly increase children’s chances of adverse outcomes.
Louisiana’s Kids Count Profile
Louisiana’s state profile shows our ranking across numerous indicators:
Economic, Health and Family
45% of Louisiana’s children live in single parent families, compared with 35% nationwide; the Louisiana percentage is unchanged from 2010.
35% of Louisiana’s children have parents who lack secure employment, compared with 28% nationwide, but a slight improvement from 36% in Louisiana in 2010.
Louisiana’s strongest indicator is for the percentage of children with health insurance—only 3% of our children lack health insurance, compared with 4% nationwide, and an improvement from 6% in Louisiana in 2010.
Louisiana is ranked 47th in education, ahead of only Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico. The good news is Louisiana has substantially improved in our graduation rates and 4th grade reading levels. Specific education results include:
Early Care and Education
According to Kids Count, almost half (49%) of Louisiana’s three and four year olds are not in preschool. This is better than the national average of 52%, but still far below what is desired. In our state, almost all of our at-risk four year olds can access a public Pre-K Program, but only around 35% of our three year olds can, and even fewer of our children birth through age two can access any publicly funded early care and education program.
The New Orleans’ Times-Picayune Editorial Board responded to the new Kid Count Data in an editorial entitled Without Pre-K, Louisiana children start off at a disadvantage. Highlights of the editorial include:
In measurement after measurement, we don’t do right by our youngest residents….The lack of preschool is one reason students get so far behind. And we’re not doing nearly enough to remedy that.
So the state didn’t invest any more of its own money into these vital pre-K programs for the coming budget year. That needs to change next year. Lawmakers passed comprehensive legislation in 2012 aimed at improving the quality of preschool. But they haven’t invested nearly enough money into that effort or into extending access to more children.
Investing in vulnerable children would improve their chances for success in school and in life. It would make it easier for their parents to work and strengthen Louisiana’s economy. It’s also the right thing to do.
The Louisiana Policy Institute for Children advances policies to ensure that Louisiana’s young children are ready for success in school and in life. We are a source of nonpartisan, independent information on issues concerning children ages birth through four in Louisiana. We also develop policy proposals informed by data, research, best practices and the experiences of other states for improving the outcomes of Louisiana’s young children, and then provide educational and outreach activities around these recommended policy solutions.