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Report highlights Indiana’s strengths, weaknesses for child well-being

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(The Center Square) – Indiana finds itself among the middle of the pack in terms of child well-being.

That’s according to the latest annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found the state is doing a better job in terms of education and economic well-being and has room for improvement in health and family and community support.

In its KIDS COUNT Data Book, the Baltimore-based national philanthropic organization ranked the Hoosier State 27th overall. The state’s best ranking came in economic well-being, which was 15th. Education was 17th, but Indiana ranked 31st for family and community support and 32nd for health.

The Indiana Youth Institute, which represents the state in the KIDS COUNT network, noted in a blog post on its site that 75% of Hoosier kids, roughly 392,000, have parents with secure, full-time jobs. That exceeds the national average.

In addition, just 22% of kids live in households where housing costs are 30% or more of the household’s income. The national average is 30%.

“We should celebrate the progress we have made, especially in economic well-being areas such as parental employment rates and housing affordability, and we must acknowledge the disparities that persist for our kids,” the institute said in its statement. “Every child in Indiana should have access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances.”

Despite the overall ranking for education, the report found areas needing improvement. For example, the percentage of eighth graders not proficient in math went from 63% in 2019 to 70% in 2022. Fewer fourth-graders were also proficient in reading, as the state’s score went from 63% to 67% over the same span.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has often been cited as the reason for the slumping test scores, the institute noted the KIDS COUNT report found other causes as well.

“Long-standing issues have persisted, with U.S. students lagging behind their peers in high-level reading, math and digital problem-solving skills crucial for today’s competitive global economy,” the institute stated. “The economic impact of this educational deficit is profound, with potential losses up to $31 trillion in U.S. economic activity.”

Indiana also reported higher incidences of low birth weight babies, going from 8.2% in 2019 to 8.7% in 2022. The state’s ranking for child and teen deaths rose from 29th to 36th, with Indiana reporting 603 fatalities per 100,000 in 2022.

Nationally, New Hampshire was the No. 1 state in the report, with Massachusetts and Utah round up the top three. New Mexico was the worst state, with Louisiana 48th and Mississippi 49th.

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