Child Well Being Index Report Provides Valuable Data to State Advocates – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

As we have reported,  the U.S. has recently achieved some of the lowest uninsured rates
for children on record. Yet, over the same period of time, children continued to
experience increased rates of poverty. Because we know that poverty is
distributed unevenly in the country, and in fact is often concentrated, the key
message from the 2012 STATE Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI)  will resonate with many child advocates: the well-being of the child very much depends
upon where in the country a child lives.  For example, Massachusetts has
half the child mortality rate of Alabama, and children living in Texas are four
times as likely to lack health insurance as children in Massachusetts.

The report, produced by researchers from the Anne E.
Casey Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau with support from the
Foundation for Child Development (FCD), avers that this is largely due to the
way in which public programs are funded.  For children, 2/3rds of public
support comes from state and local governments. Whereas, the federal government
is responsible for funding 90% of programs that aid the elderly, and therefore
it is easy to see why, on average, the elderly have lower poverty rates than

The STATE CWI, released in January 2012, is modeled upon
the National Child Well- Being Index, released annually by the FCD and
uses rich state data cultivated by the KIDS COUNT initiative. A few key
highlights from the STATE CWI demonstrate the uniqueness of this study: higher
state taxes are better for children, and public investments in children matter.

Higher state taxes have the strongest correlation with
the STATE CWI.  The top ten ranking states for the STATE CWI have tax
rates that hover around 10 percent, while the bottom ten ranking states have
tax rates around 8.5 percent. States with higher taxes tend to invest more
in public programs, and the authors report that increased child well-being is
directly related to per-pupil expenditures in elementary and secondary
education, access to public medical insurance programs like Medicaid and CHIP
and higher levels of TANF benefits.

Another interesting finding involved the uninsured rates
of adults. It has often been pointed out that more insured adults make for more
insured children
, and the STATE CWI makes an even stronger case by
linking the adult uninsured rate to children’s overall well-being.  Of the 10 demographic measures found to
have statistically significant correlations with overall child well-being, the
measure with the strongest negative correlation is the percent of adults
between the ages of 18-64 without health insurance. This affirms the notion
that as the primary providers for children, states with struggling adult
populations often have struggling child populations. 

The report is a great resource for advocates, as it
explores a myriad of questions associated with child well-being: 1) What states
have the best child well-being based on the index, 2) Which states performed
best in each of the seven domains, 3) which states improved their child
well-being the most from 2003-2007, and 4) What demographic factors, economic
conditions, and public policies are associated with states that have higher
levels of child well-being.  Here’s
a sneak peak at some of the rankings:

In 2007, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire
placed at the top of the Overall Child Well-Being Index, while Louisiana,
Mississippi and New Mexico ranked in the bottom three, respectively.  Each of the top three states are also
positioned in the lead for one of the seven individual domains that comprise
the overall index. New Hampshire topped the family economic well-being domain,
New Jersey the social relationships domain, and Massachusetts ranked first in
both the education attainment and community engagement domains.  From 2003-2007, Hawaii, Virginia, and
Massachusetts made the most progress, while Kansas, South Dakota, and
Connecticut made the least.

Click here to see how your state measures up to others.  

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