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N.D. Ranks Well Nationally in Child Health and Well-being but Opportunities Exist

North Dakota children are showing some progress in the education and health indicators but mixed results in the family and community indicator.

North Dakota’s overall child well-being ranks sixth in the nation, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which is an annual assessment of children’s well-being in the U.S.

According to North Dakota KIDS COUNT at North Dakota State University, the data provides a robust and comprehensive portrait of how U.S. children are doing in key areas. It ranks states based on 16 indicators of child well-being (until 2012, the annual rankings were based on 10 indicators), reflecting child development research. In addition, the 16 indicators are organized into four domains, (economic well-being, family and community, education and health) that capture what children need most to thrive.

North Dakota children are showing some progress in the education and health indicators but mixed results in the family and community indicator. Despite North Dakota ranking first in the nation in economic well-being, all four indicators in that domain showed declines (children living in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children in households with a high housing cost burden, and teens not in school and not working).

“North Dakota continues to lead the nation in the growth of gross domestic product and per- capita income and continues to have the nation’s lowest unemployment rate,” says Karen Olson, North Dakota KIDS COUNT program director. “These positive economic indicators reflect trends that are bringing prosperity to the state and many of its residents. However, many North Dakotans still face challenges, and our prosperity provides us a unique opportunity to make investments in the lives of our children to ensure they get the best possible start in life.”

The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book looked at the strengths, plus challenges and opportunities, of North Dakota’s four domains.

Economic Well-being (first in the nation)

  • Strengths: North Dakota ranks as the best in nation in the economic well-being of children. North Dakota has the smallest proportion of children whose parents lack secure employment and the smallest proportion of children living in families with a high housing cost burden (greater than 30 percent of income going to housing costs). In addition, when compared with other states, North Dakota has the third lowest child poverty rate.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: Although it is a relatively small percentage of children living in poverty, the percentage has increased during the past six years, even though the state’s economy is booming. The percentage of children in cost-burdened homes has increased as well, from 19 percent in 2005 to 21 percent in 2011. Teens considered to be idle (not in school and not working) increased slightly, from 6 percent in 2008 to 7 percent in 2011.

Family and Community (fourth in the nation)

  • Strengths: When compared with other states, children in North Dakota fare well in terms of family and community indicators. North Dakota has the lowest proportion of children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma and the second lowest proportion of children living in single-parent families.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: About one in four North Dakota children live with a single parent (26 percent in 2011, up from 23 percent in 2005). These children are much more likely to be living in poverty than children living with married parents. The proportion of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased from 5 percent in 2000 to 8 percent between 2007 and 2011, which is when the data was collected. The teen birth rate in North Dakota, which showed slight improvement from 2005 to 2010, slipped in ranking from ninth best among states to 17th in 2010.

Education (16th in the nation)

  • Strengths: All four education indicators (children not attending preschool, fourth-graders not proficient in reading, eighth-graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time) showed improvement during the measurement period. North Dakota has the third lowest proportion of high school students in the nation not graduating on time.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: High-quality prekindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds can improve school readiness, with the greatest gains accruing to the highest-risk children. However, two-thirds of the 3- and 4-year-olds in North Dakota do not attend nursery school or preschool (47th in the nation). According to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, nearly two-thirds of fourth graders are not proficient in reading and more than half of the eighth-graders are not proficient in math. ACT scores indicate that the majority of North Dakota students, upon completion of high school, are not prepared for college-level courses.

Health (25th in the nation)

  • Strengths: Three of the four health indicators (children without health insurance, child and teen death rates, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs) showed improvement during the measurement period. While the proportion is up slightly, North Dakota has the seventh lowest proportion of low-birth weight babies in the nation.
  • Challenges and Opportunities: Though showing some improvement, the child death rate in North Dakota ranks 41st in the nation. The percentage of babies born at a low birth weight increased from 6.4 percent in 2005 to 6.7 percent in 2010. A low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) carries a range of health risks, including a weakened immune system, reduced muscle strength, decreased cognitive and social development, and a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease in later life.

The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org. The website allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and other websites and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

The 2013 North Dakota KIDS COUNT Fact Book, which provides child well-being data for North Dakota, its 53 counties and eight planning regions, will be available from North Dakota KIDS COUNT in the fall of 2013 at http://www.ndkidscount.org/.


NDSU Agriculture Communication – June 24, 2012

Source:Karen Olson, (701) 231-5118, karen.olson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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