Zirpoli: Child poverty, teen births down in latest Kid's Count report

The 2018 Kid’s Count report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation was published recently and it provides an overview of the state of our nation’s children. In the 2018 report, the foundation looked at the overall well-being of our nation’s children based upon data collected in 2016 and then compared it to the data they collected in 2010.

The Kid’s Count report looked at four domains: economic, education, health, and family and community. Within each domain, four indicators are measured and studied for a total of 16 indicators.


The foundation reports “positive and negative developments in child well-being nationally.” For example, while there was a decrease in the number of children living in poverty in 2010, 1 in 5 American children still lived in poverty in 2016. Two bright spots are documented in the report. First, the number of children without health insurance was cut in half from 2010 to 2016 because of The Affordable Care Act. Second, teen births continued a 26-year decrease from 60 teen births per 1,000 females in 1990 to just 20 teen births per 1,000 females in 2016 — a 67 percent decrease.

Within the economic domain, improvements were seen in all four indicators. About 19 percent of our nation’s children lived in poverty in 2016 compared to 22 percent in 2010. New Hampshire had the lowest percent (8 percent) while Mississippi and New Mexico shared the highest proportion of their children living in poverty at 30 percent.

The number of teens not in school and not working decreased from 9 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2016. Parent employment also increased. These economic indicators improved as the economic recovery from the 2008 recession progressed. As the economy improved, so did the economic well-being of our nation’s children. The three states with the top economic picture for children in 2016 were New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The bottom three states in this category were Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico. On this variable, Maryland was ranked 13th in the nation.

Within the education domain, half the indicators improved and half stayed the same. For example, the number of high school students not graduating on time decreased from 21 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2016. At the same time, the number of preschool-aged children not in preschool remained at 52 percent. Two important indicators remain very high. The number of fourth-graders not proficient in reading was at 65 percent and the number of eighth-graders not proficient in math was 67 percent. These are disappointing numbers for our rich nation. The three states with the top education ranking for 2016 were New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The bottom three states in this category were Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico. Maryland ranked ninth in the nation in this education domain.

The report also looked at median annual earnings in 2016 by educational attainment. The data clearly document the economic benefits of higher education. In 2016, the median income for individuals without a high school diploma was $21,800; with a high school diploma, $30,000; with a bachelor’s degree. $51,700; and with a graduate degree, $70,100.

Within the health domain, the number of low birth-weight babies increased slightly in 2016 compared to 2010; the number of children without health insurance was cut in half to 4 percent; child and teen deaths per 100,000 remained the same at 26; and the number of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs stayed the same at 5 percent. The top three states as measured on these health variables were Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey. The bottom three states were New Mexico, Wyoming and Alaska. Maryland ranked 17th in the nation on this health domain.

Within the last domain, Family and Community, the number of children living in single-parent families increased from 34 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2016. The highlight of this domain was the continued decrease in teen births from 34 per 1,000 teens in 2010 to 20 per 1,000 teens in 2016. On the measures within family and community, Utah, New Hampshire, and Vermont scored the highest, while Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi scoring the lowest. Maryland ranked 22nd in the nation on this domain.

Overall, when all the measures are taken into consideration, the states with the best data on children are New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey. The three states with the worst overall data on their states’ children are Nevada, Mississippi and Louisiana. Overall, Maryland ranks 14th in the nation on the child well-being measures employed in this report.