Report: Well-being of state's kids improves, but poverty rates soar

BARBARA COTTER Updated: July 26, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: July 26, 2010

Colorado has improved its standing as a place where children can thrive, according to a national study released Tuesday, but researchers note that data used to evaluate the 50 states on the well-being of their kids predate the economic downturn that began in 2008.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based organization focused on public policy that affects children and families, Colorado’s ranking improved from 22nd in the 2009 report to 20 in the 2010 report. The rankings are based on 10 key indicators that measure how each state’s children are faring.

New Hampshire topped the list in overall child well-being; Mississippi came in at 50.

In its report, the “2010 Kids Count Data Book,” Casey authors say that child well-being nationwide has stagnated or even worsened since 2000. From 1994 to 2000, the child poverty rate fell by 30 percent — the biggest decrease since the 1960s.

“Since 2000, however, improvements have stalled,” the report says. “In fact, the child poverty rate has increased by 6 percent, meaning that 1 million more children lived in poverty in 2008 than in 2000,” the report says.

Most of the data used in the report is from 2007 and 2008, the latest available. Researchers warn that when newer data comes in reflecting the recession, it will show even more children living in poverty.

“These statistics are disheartening, but they also reveal how little we know how the recession has affected children,” said Patrick McCarthy, Casey’s president and chief executive.

Based on a comparison of data from 2000, Colorado improved in five of the 10 indicators measuring child well-being. Among the findings:

• In 2008, 15 percent of Colorado children were living in poverty ($21,834 for a family of four). That was a 50 percent increase from 2000. Nationally, 18 percent of kids were living in poverty, a 6 percent jump from 2000.

• 27 percent of Colorado children were in single-parent families in 2008, up 4 percent from 2000. Still, that’s among the lowest in the nation (No. 7, in a tie with Iowa). Nationwide, 32 percent of kids were in single-parent families.

• In 2007, Colorado reported 6.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, down 2 percent from 2000. Nationwide, the infant mortality rate was 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. However, the researchers noted, the rate has fluctuated in Colorado; the 2007 rate was up 7 percent from 2006

• The biggest improvements in Colorado came in the child death rate and percent of teens not in school and not high school graduates. Both numbers fell 27 percent from 2000.

To see the report and find more information about children and family issues, go to www.aecf.org.

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