There are many ways to measure what it means today to be a kid in America: We can size up the number of children in poverty, or the share who, at some point in the past year, didn't have enough to eat. We can count how often their parents read to them, or how many got drunk in the last month.
We can track their movement through the juvenile justice system or foster care, or in and out of health insurance. We can size up the behaviors that seem to predict success — or a shortage of it — later in life: How many teens already have babies of their own, or managed to graduate high school on time?
Every year the Annie E. Casey Foundation updates a massive trove of data on all of these indicators tracing the wellbeing of America's children. And the metrics vary broadly across the country — another sign that where children live heavily shapes the chances they have in life. In this year's report, the foundation's combined index of many of these economic, health, education and family indicators found that children have the highest overall wellbeing in the state of Minnesota.
The Upper Midwest and Northeast fare particularly well on the whole; the 10 lowest-ranked states were all in the South of West (Mississippi, again, trails the whole lot). You can find the full rankings here. Below, we've pulled out and mapped 11 of the most interesting metrics in the full dataset.
In Mississippi and New Mexico, roughly one in three children lives in poverty:
Poor children in those same states — as well as Arizona, Texas and Louisiana — are doubly burdened. Not only do they live in impoverished families; their families live in deeply poor neighborhoods, too. This map shows the share of children living in census tracts with a poverty rate above 30 percent:
Throughout much of the South, children are also more likely to live in families that experience food insecurity:
When it comes to housing, other parts of the country like the West Coast fare badly, too:
In the Northeast, children are most likely to live in a household without a vehicle:
In the Great Plains and Mountain West, children are least likely to be born to unmarried mothers:
Here is another way of looking at family structure:
The map of where children attend preschool is patchier, depending on local policies — sometimes hailed in red states like Georgia — that support early childhood education.
By the time children are 17, these are the states where they're most likely to repeat at least one grade since starting kindergarten:
This map shows the share of children who engaged in less than five days of "vigorous physical activity" in the previous week:
Lastly, here is the surprising map of where children, under age 21, are most likely to be detained, incarcerated or living in a residential facility for criminal offenses. The highest rate in the nation is in the District of Columbia.