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National Report on Kids: MN Results No Cause for Celebration

July 27, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The new Kids Count Data Book out today from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Minnesota second in the nation for child well-being, but the results aren't necessarily a cause for celebration. The state has 26,000 more children living in poverty than at the beginning of the decade, and there's been an uptick in single-parent households and low-weight babies.

Kara Arzamendia, research director and Kids Count coordinator for the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota, says the increase in single-parent households is a concerning trend, because it's a significant indicator of child poverty, particularly in this economy.

"When there's a single head of household, they are nine times more likely to be in poverty, and that's just because they are more vulnerable to things like job loss or emergencies. Even a cut in hours can be really detrimental when a family only has one income earner."

When children live in poverty, she adds, they are exposed to other toxic conditions, such as unhealthy housing, lack of adequate nutrition, and exposure to violence.

The report did show five areas of improvement for the state, including the infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate, teen birth rate, and high school graduation rates.

Despite the slight overall improvement, Arzamendia says there are still significant racial disparities in infant mortality and high school graduation rates. She says finding solutions to the graduation problem is critical, because high school drop-outs carry a much higher price tag than investment in education.

"They cost society on average about $260,000 in decreased productivity and earnings and increased costs in things like health care and criminal justice costs."

She says that, because there's a lag-time in data collection, the report's results do not show how the recession has truly impacted Minnesota's kids.

"The most recent data we have is from 2008, which some would argue doesn't even capture what's happened in the last year or two."

The great strides Minnesota made in child well-being during the 1990s are clearly in jeopardy, says Arzamendia, and it's time that lawmakers and child advocates work together to start providing solutions that will reverse the downward trend.

"We know what works, we know what's out there, we just need the political will and courage to do it, and to make those investments."

The highest rates of child poverty were not in Minnesota's urban areas, but in the rural counties of Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Mahnomen and Wadena.

The report can be found at:

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN