Study: Montana is 28th in kids’ well-being

2013-06-23T23:00:00Z 2013-06-24T12:52:04Z Study: Montana is 28th in kids’ well-beingBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — Montana ranked 28th nationally in overall children’s well-being, placing above average in three of the four broad categories, but again was dead last among the states in children’s health, according to the 2013 National Kids Count Data Book.

The book, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, rated states by what it calls four domains or broad categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. Each domain, in turn, contains four sets of statistical measurements.

Montana maintained the same overall 28th rating that it had in 2012.

Here are latest rankings for Montana by broad category:

-- Economic well-being. Montana ranked 15th nationally, which is up from 20th last year, in this broad category.

Looking at the components, more children here (32 percent) are living in households that spend 30 percent of their incomes on housing than in the 2012 report. In addition, more kids (30 percent) have parents who don’t have full-time, full-year employment. The number of youths aged 16 to 19 who are not in school or working improved to 7 percent. The 20 percent of children living below the poverty line here remains unchanged.

“Family economic success provides a critical foundation for healthy child development, in turn promoting success in adulthood,” said Thale Dillon, director of Montana Kids Count, in a press release.

-- Education. Montana ranked 13th best nationally, the same as its 2012 ranking.

Breaking down the components, the 2013 Kids Count showed Montana improved by having fewer (54 percent) eighth graders not proficient in math compared to the 64 percent in the 2012 report. The state also improved in having fewer children (57 percent) not attending preschool. Montana was stagnant in again having 64 percent of fourth graders not proficient in reading and 18 percent of high school students not graduating on time.

Dillon said promoting successful educational achievement promotes future success by making it easier to keep children on track to remain in school and graduate.

-- Health. Montana was 50th, worst among the states in this broad category, just as it was in 2012.

The Kids Count report showed Montana improved by having a lower percentage (12 percent) of children without health insurance. Likewise, the state got better scores by having fewer teenagers (10 percent) who abuse alcohol or drugs than before. Montana’s marks worsened by having 7.5 percent of its babies rated as low birth-weight, and by having more (45) child and teen deaths per 100,000.

“A child’s health is the real foundation for overall development and being born healthy is the first step toward increasing the life chances of any child,” Dillon said.

-- Family and community. Montana ranked 14th in this area, down 13th in 2012.

Looking at the categories, Montana improved by having fewer children (6 percent) in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma. Another area of improvement was the having a lower percentage (7 percent) of children living in high-poverty areas. The state was unchanged with the number of teen births per 1,000 with 35. Montana worsened by having a higher share (30 percent) of children in single-parent families.

Dillon said to achieve improved behavior and academic outcomes in children and ultimately successful adults, families and communities need the human and social resources to properly care for and nurture children in their early years.

The statistical comparisons in Kids Count vary in how recent they are. In no instances were the comparisons from one year to the previous year. The most current statistics used for the 2013 Kids Count run from 2007 to 2011, varying by category. The numbers the scores are compared to also differ by the category, ranging from 2000 to 2008.

Unlike recent years, the foundation didn’t release in advance scores in all 50 states. As a result, Montana’s results couldn’t be compared to those in Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota as in the past.

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