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Youth report: State ranking better, but death rate worse

June 13, 2017 GMT

Indiana’s children are more economically secure, with fewer in poverty and more parents employed, according to a study released today.

While Indiana improved its overall ranking on the 2017 Kids Count report, state officials say a large percentage of children still live in high-poverty areas.

The annual report, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks Indiana 28th among the 50 states. Indiana ranked 30th last year.

The report measures four categories : economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Aside from an overall score, states are ranked on each of those measures. The report uses U.S. Census Bureau data and other federal government statistical agencies. The data reflect the best available state and national data for tracking yearly changes. The most recent data are for 2015.

Three New England states hold the top spots for overall child well-being: New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont, respectively. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the lowest-ranked states.

In Indiana, the education ranking improved the most, up nine positions to 14th from the year before. The biggest progress was in students graduating high school on time, down six percentage points to 13 percent.

In an accompanying release, the Indiana Youth Institute notes the state’s strong showing in economic indicators, where it jumped five spots to 19th place. That’s higher than surrounding states. The category includes measures of poverty, parental employment, housing cost burden and teens not in school or working.

Twenty-one percent of Hoosier children lived in poverty in 2015, a point lower than in 2014, according to the report. That matches the national rate. In addition, fewer were living in families where no parent has a full-time, year-round job (28 percent) and fewer were living in families that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs (25 percent).

Still, at 13 percent, a large number of children continue to live in high-poverty areas. That represents 200,000 children and an 18 percent increase from three years earlier, the Indiana Youth Institute states in its release. The rate remained unchanged from the year before and is a percentage lower than the national rate.

“Research shows that children living in high-poverty areas are at greater risk for adverse experiences and have fewer educational opportunities,” Tami Silverman, president and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, said in the release. “This combination of factors limits their chances to succeed in adulthood.”

Indiana ranked 35th in health, its lowest rating among the four categories and a decline of four spots from the previous year. Most measures in that category : low-birth weight babies, children without health insurance, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs : remained level from the year before. But one measure stands out.

The Youth Institute notes a “troubling” 11 percent increase in the child and teen death rate from 2010 to 2015, ranking Indiana 37th in the nation. The rate was 31 per 100,000 children ages 1 to 19 in 2015, and above the national rate of 25. The Indiana State Department of Health’s annual mortality reports indicate a consistent increase across several categories, including homicides and suicides, according to the institute. Accidental deaths declined during the period.

“Indiana’s leaders must continue to focus on improving all aspects of our children’s education, health, economic and family-and-community situations,” Silverman said. “We must ensure we are meeting the needs of the whole child, and giving all Hoosier children the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances. Our kids deserve to do more than survive; they deserve to thrive!”

rshawgo@jg.net