While Minnesota Children Near Nation's Top, Still Causes for Concern

July 28, 2009

A newly-released national report ranks Minnesota near the top in child well-being; however, Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota (CDF) officials cautioned that the findings of the national KIDS COUNT Data Book leave reasons for concern. Some of the trends found in the survey, including a steep rise in child poverty since 2000, should give policy makers in Minnesota and across the country reason to act, CDF officials said.

The annual national data book, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, used the latest available data to find that children in Minnesota did better in 2006 and 2007 than they did in 2000 in five of 10 areas studied, and did worse in 4 areas. CDF-Minnesota officials, however, pointed out that the effects of the current economic downturn that has increased joblessness and created economic instability for Minnesota are not captured by the survey.

CDF-Minnesota will publish the the Minnesota version of the KIDS COUNT Data Book in September. That publication will measure child well being in all 87 Minnesota counties.

"We are pleased that Minnesota rates highly compared to the rest of the country in child well-being," said CDF-Minnesota Research Director Kara Arzamendia. "But it's important to point out that Minnesota saw a 33 percent increase in child poverty, and thousands more kids without health insurance during the period studied. We've still got a lot of work to do to ensure that our high ranking means that we are meeting the needs of Minnesota's children."

Key Minnesota Findings

The National Kids Count Data Book used the most recent available data to measure progress in 10 key areas of child well-being in Minnesota and other states since the year 2000.

On the positive side, the state saw its rates of infant mortality rate drop by 7 percent, teen births decrease by 7 percent, and its number of teens dropping out of school decrease by 57 percent. There was no change in the number of teens not in school or the work force.

Cause for Concern for State

However, Arzamendia said, in several areas tracked, Minnesota did worse, in some cases dramatically:

  • The percentage of children living in poverty rose 33 percent, far beyond the national average increase
  • The number of low birthweight babies rose by 7 percent
  • The number of kids whose parents don't have permanent full-time jobs rose 22 percent
  • Children living in single parent homes rose by 24 percent

"We know from study after study that investments in our children's well being come back many fold over a child's lifetime in the form of better health, better school performance, and better preparation for the work force," Arzamendia said. "Ultimately investments in children benefit our schools, our communities, our taxpayers and our economy.?

The entire National Kids Count Data book can be found at www.datacenter.kidscount.org.

Kids Count is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota is part of the national Kids Count Network, and publishes a Minnesota version of the Kids Count Data Book.