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Study of children's well-being finds Southwest at bottom

If I asked you which states had the most well-off children, would you guess North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota? That’s what this year’s new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found. As for the bottom, three of the four lowest-ranking states are in the Southwest.

For the first time in the study's 24 years, Mississippi is no longer in the cellar. New Mexico is. Several states in the Southwest were hit by the housing bust. Construction slowed, and for low-income families, rental prices rose. Meanwhile, state safety nets shrank.

“In places like Nevada, in places like Arizona, the infrastructure for kids and families is not where it needs to be,” says the study's author, Laura Speer, at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

As for New Mexico, it lacks a big sector to fuel a recovery, says economist James Peach at the New Mexico State University. The state does have high-tech research. But it’s struggled to create a tech sector.

“Bill Gates was originally located in New Mexico,” Peach says. “And in the late 1970s he could not get a $50,000 loan to continue his enterprise. And he went home to Seattle.”

Across the country, the child poverty rate rose 4 points to 23 percent. On the good news side, kids’ health insurance coverage went up, as did math and reading scores.

Overall Child Well-Being:

Source: Overall child well-being ranking (2013). From the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

 

 

Child Education:

 

Source: State rankings on education (2013). From the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

 

 

Child Health:

 

Source: State rankings on child health (2013). From the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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