The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently published its 2014 annual report on the well-being of our nation's children. The report is called 'Kids Count Data Book' and is available at no cost on the foundation's website at

The report has been published since 1990, and the population of our nation's children has changed significantly since then. According to the report, "Between 1990 and 2012, the nation's child population grew from 64 million to 74 million." This period was also a time of "fundamental shift in the racial and ethnic composition" of American children, according to the report, which found a decline in the proportion of white children "from 69 to 53 percent, while the percentage of Latino children doubled, from 12 to 24 percent." The portion of Asian American children also increased from 3 to 5 percent, while the proportion of African American and American Indian children has not changed significantly. In fact, the proportion of African American children actually declined slightly, from 15 percent of the child population to 14 percent.


The report reviews a geographical shift where "the child population has grown substantially across the southern United States and the Rocky Mountain states." While states such as Texas, North Carolina and Georgia in the South, as well as Nevada, Utah and Colorado in the West are growing in their child populations in proportion to their overall populations, states in New England and the Midwest have seen a decline in the number of children as a proportion of their populations.

Parent variables have also changed. In 1990, 58 percent of mothers with children under the age of 6 were employed. In 2013, according to the report, this has increased to 64 percent.

The report states that the number of babies born to unmarried mothers has stabilized since 2008 at 41 percent. This compares to 32 percent of babies born to unmarried mothers in 1995. Part of this increase, according to the report, "is due to the rising number of cohabiting couples and births within such relationships."

In the good news column, the report states that during the past 20 years juvenile crime has decreased and "the incarceration rate among youth has decreased by 45 percent."

Other areas of improvement were also reported. These included the number of children attending preschool (46 percent), fourth graders who are proficient in reading (44 percent), eighth graders who are proficient in math (44 percent), high school students graduating on time (81 percent), babies born with appropriate body weight (92 percent), children with health insurance (93 percent), and teens who do not abuse alcohol or drugs (94 percent).

Areas where conditions for American children have worsened since 1990 include the percentage of children living in poverty (23 percent), children whose parents lack secure employment (31 percent), and children living in single-parent families (35 percent).

In looking at the overall well-being of our nation's children, the foundation looked at four variables: Economic, education, health and family/community well-being. On these four variables, the top five states for children were Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota. The bottom five states were: Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.

Children were rated as having the best economic well-being in North Dakota, having the best education opportunities in Massachusetts, having the best health care in Iowa and having the best family and community conditions in New Hampshire.

Mississippi was in last place overall and in last place on half of the variables measured.

Children in Maryland ranked 12th in the nation for overall well-being, 14th for economic well-being, 8th in education, 14th for health care and 19th for family and community well-being.

In other areas of note, Massachusetts, the birth place of the Affordable Care Act, was number one in the nation for the number of children under the age of 18 years with health insurance (99 percent) compared to states that have not embraced the ACA such as Alaska, Arizona, and Texas, where over 12 percent of the children do not have health insurance.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at