Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book Finds Wisconsin Kids Losing Ground Compared to Other States

Each year, the Annie E. Casey foundation publishes its KIDS COUNT Data Book, a state-by-state collection of indicators measuring the well-being of the nation’s children. We at WCCF try not to get too caught up in these sorts of composite rankings of which states are best for kids, but they can be very useful in monitoring trends within Wisconsin, and how they compare with the direction in which things are moving in other states.

This year, for the first time, the Data Book has a new, updated index of 16 child well-being indicators that have been grouped into four broad domains: Economic Well-Being; Education; Health; and Family and Community. On the national level, the data reported in the report shows that families have experienced setbacks in economic well-being since about 2005, but have made gains in education and health.

Among the 16 indicators included in the book, Wisconsin’s numbers improved on six indicators and stayed the same on three. However, a deeper look reveals a somewhat troubling trend: Wisconsin’s national ranking has slipped in 11 of the 16 key indicators of child well-being showcased in this year’s Data Book.

Our overall ranking among the states on child well-being was 15th. While you can’t really compare overall rank to previous years due to a change to a new indexing method, it should be noted that in past years Wisconsin has often ranked in the top ten based on the old system. This year, Wisconsin ranked in the top 10 in only one of the four major domains, coming in at number 10 in Education. That position was supported by the state’s number one ranking in percentage of youth graduating from high school on time.

Economic Well-Being
Family and Community

Wisconsin ranked 15th in the Economic Well-Being domain, lowered in part by the fact that child poverty in Wisconsin has increased more than twice as fast as the national average. The percentage of Wisconsin children living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased nearly three times as fast as the national average.

On Health—an area in which Wisconsin has traditionally ranked among the best in the country thanks to our historically high percentage of children covered by health insurance—the state held steady on most indicators. However, our rank in percentage of children covered by health insurance dropped from fourth to ninth because other states are improving while we tread water.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book with state-by-state rankings and supplemental data is available at

Bob Jacobson

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