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Report Ranks Iowa as a Top State for Children

Advocates say Iowa puts a premium on investing in families and children. (Pixabay)
Advocates say Iowa puts a premium on investing in families and children. (Pixabay)
June 13, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – A report released Tuesday shows Iowa is doing a nice job in ensuring its kids get the best start in life.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book examines key indicators of how children and families are faring across the U.S. and ranks Iowa fifth nationally for overall child well-being.

Iowa KIDS COUNT director Michael Crawford says the state is in the top 10 among states in the areas of economic well-being, education and health.

"Families and raising children are important to people in the state of Iowa," he says. "Now, some may argue we haven't put the investments that we should have into the state the past few years, and I'm somewhat in agreement to that. But I do think overall we do put a premium on raising kids. We think that's important."

Crawford says the most notable finding is that 96 percent of children in Iowa now have health-care coverage. Nationally, it is 95 percent. The report credits key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as investments in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, for the historic number of kids with health insurance.

Crawford says fewer kids are living in poverty, more parents have jobs and more families are able to afford housing.

But, he contends there always is room for improvement and suggests a raise in the Earned Income Tax Credit among other things.

"Right now, we only award families in Iowa 15 percent of what the federal earned income tax rate is," he adds. "We'd like to see that doubled to 30 percent, I think that would make us comparable to some other states around the Midwest and make it where we should be with regards to low-income families."

The Casey Foundation's Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, says data-driven investments and policies are crucial to ensure a promising future for the next generation.

"We've been tracking these measures for more than 25 years because we believe in the importance of really getting a clear, unbiased measure of child well-being over time," Speer says. "We want folks to use this information to make good decisions so that we can maintain the gains that we've been able to achieve."

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA