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ND Slips from Top-10 Ranking in Child Well-Being

North Dakota ranks high among states for its strong family and community ties, but a new report says there's room for improvement in other areas. (Matthew Bietz/Flickr)
North Dakota ranks high among states for its strong family and community ties, but a new report says there's room for improvement in other areas. (Matthew Bietz/Flickr)
June 27, 2018

BISMARCK, N. D. – North Dakota children are doing well, but a new ranking finds the state has slipped to the 11th spot nationally for children's well-being.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, assesses how kids are doing in the areas of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community.

This year's report shows upward trends in many aspects of child well-being, particularly in economic indicators, where North Dakota outranks all other states.

However, there are mixed results or stalled progress in the other domains, according to Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation.

"We want to do right by all kids and make sure that they have strong families, strong communities and the opportunities that will help them to thrive, and many of the trends that we're seeing are really good," said Speer. "But there's still a lot of work to do."

North Dakota also ranks high in the family and community domain, at fourth in the nation. But the state does far worse in education, ranked at 31st. The report says 68 percent of kids ages 3 and 4 are not enrolled in preschool programs, compared with the national average of 52 percent.

North Dakota ranks 32nd in terms of children's health.

Karen Olson, program director for North Dakota KIDS COUNT, noted this is only the second time in the past three decades that the state hasn't ranked in the top ten for child well-being.

One poor indicator is the child uninsured rate, which at 8 percent is twice the national average. North Dakota is one of only three states where the uninsured rate has increased since 2010.

Olson said areas where the state is doing well could offer support to the health and education domains.

"Our current economic prosperity does provide us a unique opportunity to make investments in the lives of our children, and ensure that they get the best possible start in life," she said.

The report also highlights the need to ensure the 2020 U.S. Census is accurate. Olson says a precise count is critical for allocating the resources needed for the state's children.

"If the 2020 Census count of children in North Dakota, let's say, was off by 0.2 percent, which it was in 2010 – and there's been no steps to suggest that won't happen again – North Dakota could lose up to $8 million in federal funds for children, specifically, over the next 10 years," Olson warned.

The young-child under-count has gotten worse with every census since 1980, and was 1 million short in 2010. In North Dakota, about 4,000 children live in areas considered hard to count, according to the report.

The full report and state rankings are online at aecf.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND