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Study ranks NC toward bottom in child well-being

Posted July 21, 2015

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— A new report released Tuesday ranks North Carolina in the bottom half of states in the health and well-being of children, a higher percentage of whom now live in poverty.

As of 2013, one in four children in North Carolina lived in poverty, compared with one in five in 2008, according the the study from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. But the Tar Heel State made gains in nine of the report's 16 indicators, including higher reading and math proficiency rates, lower teen drug abuse rates and significantly lower rates of uninsured children.

Now in its 25th year, the Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Book uses data from the U.S. Census, Department of Education and other federal agencies to measure a series of indicators experts link with children's long-term success.

Laila Bell, director of research and data with N.C. Child, a local nonprofit that worked with the Casey Foundation on the study, said the main take-away is that many children and families have been left behind in the economic recovery since 2008.

"We saw a lot of North Carolina children and families lose their footing in the Great Recession, and we've not seen them rebound from that," Bell said.

North Carolina ranks 35th in the country for children's overall well-being, a measure that includes rankings for education, economic well-being, health and family/community.

In economic well-being, where the state ranks 34th, the study says 32 percent of children have parents who lack secure employment and about 9 percent of teens are both out of school and out of work. The percentage of children living in households with a high "housing cost burden," those that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, remained unchanged at 33 percent.

Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director of policy reform and advocacy, said the trends in North Carolina are mirrored by many other states, which saw economic gains in the 1990s backtrack after the recession. Since 2008, the number of children in poverty nationally went from 18 percent to 22 percent in 2013.

"Economic recovery has definitely not lifted all boats," Speer said. "There are millions of children who have been left behind."

Advocates say the stubborn trend is particularly troubling given what a growing body of research shows about the long-term impacts of poverty on children.

"Poverty really is the single most damaging experience in terms of a child's growth and development," Bell said.

But there are signs of improvement in the 2015 report.

North Carolina ranks highest in the categories associated with education and health, where it improved in every measure except the percentage of children not attending preschool – 58 percent.

The state's rate of on-time graduation rates improved, as did fourth-grade reading proficiency and eighth-grade math proficiency, which are both better than the national average.

Also notable in North Carolina, Speer said, is that the number of uninsured children dropped from 10 percent in 2008 to 6 percent in 2013.

"What's most encouraging to me is that this is happening when fewer people have employer-sponsored health insurance than ever before," she said.

Many of the gains in health and family categories have continued to improve nationally since the 1990s despite the recession, Speer said. North Carolina saw that trend continue with declines in teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse and mortality.

"Children are safer, more likely to finish school and less likely to have kids themselves," she said. "There are a lot of good things."

Read the report

16 Comments

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  • John Snow Jul 23, 2015
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    Reporting data is not picking on a state or region. Data is impartial. It just means there are problems.

  • John Johnson Jul 22, 2015
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    There are So-Many Highly Obesed Children in NC.. Parents take No Time For Their Children and They're Slowly Killing Them...

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    Have ever noticed that in most studies Southern states are always the worst? Southern states are always picked on. I'm pretty sure many states are as bad as us. Plus other states have a higher population than the South. And many Northerners move to the South so we don't know how many of these people are actually Southern.
    We are all human. Everybody makes mistakes.

  • John Snow Jul 21, 2015
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    So, according to the study, all of the worst states are southern. Why does this region have less personal responsibility and make poor life choices more than the rest of the country?

  • Paul Jones Jul 21, 2015
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    Here is the root of the problem: no responsibility for yourself, blame somebody else.

    Republicans or Democrats have nothing to do with a kid deciding to quit school. They have nothing to do with teens getting pregnant at 14. They had nothing to do with most poor life choices, and it's those choices that cause NC to rank where it does.

    And that's what we have. We have a pile of people who made poor life choices. Many times, it's generational, too, as such people often don't have a sound family unit, lack education to educate their kids, or doing even give their kids time.

  • Belle Boyd Jul 21, 2015
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    How can you assume that is it just the Republicans fault (all politicians are involved). Plus it says NC improved in education and health. It is not always the politician's fault, but more of a family's problem. Some kids never do well in school, some kids don't have a good home life, etc. There are plenty of factors that play into a kid's well-being.

  • Melanie Lane Jul 21, 2015
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    Republicans have attacked every aspect of education and the war on poverty for 30 years. They cut funding and put on ridiculous requirements that require more money but there is less money but they do fund private schools more and more with the voucher programs. They also intensify the war on crime that results us having the highest prison population in history of the world, they cut every aspect of the social safety net while giving tax breaks to the top. Trickle down did exactly what economists told us it would to - it created greated inequality yet republicans still tout it and voters still vote for it. Welcome to the 21st century successful PR machine that makes people believe taking from the poor and giving to the rich will result in greater equality and opportunity. Well done republican machine.. well done

  • Melanie Lane Jul 21, 2015
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    why would you publish this story??? now you show the republicans what they need to take more money from. Obviously childrenn are not at the bottom yet, they're working on it. #thanksrepublicanvoters

  • Roy Hinkley Jul 21, 2015
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    It's not the place of a news organization to replace a well-written and detailed report with their own copy. The news article is to inform people enough that if they start to care about the topic, and if they care enough they can go seek additional information right from the source.

    Here you go: http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2015kidscountdatabook-2015.pdf

    The table of contents can take you to the data definitions.

  • Bill Huntington Jul 21, 2015
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    Why should there be a definition of what poverty is? The article was about well-being...and poverty was only ONE factor..if you don't know what poverty is there are plenty of websites or dictionaries that will define it for you. Also, about your map. That doesn't explain the low income levels in Montana, New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia...oh I get what your saying now...only blacks are poor and don't know where babies come from.

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