North Carolina has dropped one place since last year to rank 35th in the nation according to an annual KIDS COUNT data report about the overall well-being of children in the United States. This data report determines and ranks states on the basis of performance in sixteen level indicators across four domains; economic well-being, family and community, health, and education.
North Carolina’s drop to the 35th spot largely results from the state’s lackluster performance in improving its economic well-being. Currently, North Carolina is ranked 38th in the nation for economic well-being, three spots below last year’s ranking. This data report breaks down economic well-being into four categories, each of which North Carolina failed to show any progress. The KIDS COUNT State Profile for North Carolina reports that twenty-six percent of children are impoverished and thirty-four percent of parents lack secure employment in this state alone. Accordingly, in North Carolina, the amount of children living in households with high housing burden costs has seen a four percent increase since 2005, and ten percent of teens are currently not working or in school.
In comparison to last year’s report, North Carolina saw a drop in rankings for all four domains excluding family and community, in which it sustained its position of 36th in the nation. The state’s ranking dropped two spots in the education domain and eight spots in the health domain, making North Carolina 27th in the nation for education and 34th in the nation for health. However, a drop in domain rankings does not necessarily mean that the state is not progressing.
In fact, North Carolina actually improved its performance in some areas of family and community, education, and health domains since last year’s KIDS COUNT report. The state decreased the amount of non-proficient fourth grade readers, eighth graders not proficient in math, and high school students not graduating on time by five percent. Pertaining to health care, North Carolina experienced a one-percent drop in low-birthweight babies, a two percent decrease in children without health insurance, a one percent decrease in the amount of teens who abuse alcohol/drugs, and seven less child and teen deaths per 100,000. Also, the state saw a two percent decrease in the number of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, and about ten less teen births per 1,000. But because these improvements were not enough to keep pace with improvements made by other states, North Carolina is not competitive when it comes to being the best place to be a child.
More work is required if North Carolina hopes to regain or increase its overall ranking in the well-being of children. Possibly the biggest challenge will be tackling the economic issues affecting North Carolinian families. And this will require the kind of attention to policies that support economic opportunity—invest in education from early childhood to post-secondary, support for low-wage working families through the EITC and child care subsidies, for example.