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Report: Montana Kids Doing Better, Experts Look to 2020 Census

The number of single-parent Montana families has dropped since 2010, meaning more kids have two breadwinners in the family. (USFWS/Flickr)
The number of single-parent Montana families has dropped since 2010, meaning more kids have two breadwinners in the family. (USFWS/Flickr)
June 27, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Montana kids are faring better in an annual report on child well-being released today.

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

The Treasure State ranks 23rd overall in the report, making promising reductions in the child poverty rate, from 20 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2016 – lower than the national average.

Jennifer Calder, outreach and communications director for Montana KIDS COUNT, agreed that families are doing better.

She points to another promising indicator – the increase in Montana households with two parents, which also increases the number of breadwinners for families.

"Those kind of help us get this picture of some forward momentum coming from the 2008 Recession, and Montana is seeing some real gain," Calder said.

Montana ranks lowest in the area of health, at 46th. But the state has made major gains in decreasing the number of children without health insurance, dropping from 12 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2016.

Calder credited the state's expansion of Medicaid in 2016 as a likely reason the uninsured rate is dropping.

The report also highlights the need to ensure the 2020 U.S. Census is accurate. The young-child under-count has gotten worse with every census since 1980; the census was 1 million short for this age group in 2010. Without the proper resources, that could happen again in the next census, Calder warned.

"We know that about 8,000 Montana children under the age of 5 live in these sort of hard-to-count census tracts and we know that American Indian and rural populations are more likely to be under-counted," she said.

Roughly 300 federal programs use census-derived data to allocate more than $800 billion a year. For a more precise 2020 Census count, government officials need to address the digital divide, according to Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation.

"This will be the first census that's conducted primarily online," Speer explained, "so we want to make sure that people who don't have access to the Internet easily are able to complete the census, and to be represented and counted in the democracy."

The full report is online at

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT