Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Annie E. Casey Foundation

The irony does not escape me that I am sitting here savoring a delightful egg casserole that we make, store and enjoy during the week while reading about the hunger, poverty and over-all well being (or lack of it) of children in America.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its results for 2012 and the headlines are, of course, focused on who is at the bottom. The usual suspects--Mississippi and the rest of the Southeastern states, but a surprise this year is that #50 belongs to New Mexico. Arizona and Nevada join the bottom four, just nudging out Louisiana.

The rankings compile statistics on how children are faring in a variety of metrics including economic status, education, health and family/community. There has to be some bias in the way these things are viewed, but it is hard to argue with the data in general. Take a look at the report by searching for "Kids Count" and go to the Data Center.

There is progress being made, that's the good news. The bad news--there is a long way to go.  Top spots for economic well-being, measured by factors like stable employment, the number of children in poverty, teens not in school and unemployed, and high housing cost burden go to the "fly-over" states in the Plains.

Over all, the people who make the laws, the ones most represented in Congress, tend to fall pretty low. California is ranked #41, lower than Arkansas #40 and just ahead of the Southeastern states that dominate the lower half of the rankings. New York is in the middle of the pack at #29, Illinois ranks #23.

The regional differences within states ought to be considered for many of the states, and that is pointed out in the report. An individual child's status in Up-State New York may be significantly different than a child in one of the boroughs of New York City. Likewise, I can witness that a child on the reservation around Martin, South Dakota has a different life than a youngster in Dakota Dunes.

Personal surprises? That Nevada and Arizona are ranked so low. But that may be due to the huge rural areas? Seems odd when you think of the wealth displayed in Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Non-surprise? Economic well-being in the Great Plains (I am broadening the definition a bit to include places like Wyoming and Minnesota that are not all on the Plains). Eight-dollar corn, "beans in the teens" and the energy boom makes a difference.

California's ranking is just another example of why I have no ability to understand that state--some places are worse than third-world for kids, some places are ideal. In just about every way, that state surprises me with extremes.

If we can't feed the children, they won't take a lot from their education. If they don't get educated, we have Afghanistan-sized problems.

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