Child well-being in four charts

July 25, 2012

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has a monster report out on the state of child well-being in the United States, measuring across states and on a variety of dimensions from poverty to health to treatment of juvenile delinquents. The results are summarized in this graphic, showing how well each state does on each dimension:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can play around with an interactive version here. The report finds that New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts perform best overall, while Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico bring up the rear. The situation has deteriorated since the recession, with 2.4 million children falling into poverty between 2005 and 2010.

I can't hope to adequately summarize all of the report's findings, but they all drive home the human ramifications of public policy. For example, it finds that many states have many more people eligible for food stamps than are taking advantage of them. California's participation rate is a paltry 53 percent:

And as you might expect, economic indicators are tightly linked with other dimensions of well-being. Child poverty, for example, is extremely well-correlated with a state's rate of teenage births:

All told, poverty explains 78 percent of the variation in teen births between states. But what explains child poverty? Ever since the publication of William Julius Wilson's "The Truly Disadvantaged" in 1987, many have tried to explain chronic poverty by looking at geographic areas where it is endemic and thus persists even when other areas are experiencing economic growth. The theory is that these pockets of disadvantage have self-sustaining cycles of poverty that aren't necessarily responsive to changes in the world outside them. And, sure enough, 83 percent of a given state's child poverty level is explainable by the percentage of people living in poor neighborhoods:

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Brad Plumer · July 25, 2012