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Report: Nebraska 12th Best State to Be a Kid

Nebraska has seen a 22% decrease in children living in poverty and a 17% decrease in children with parents lacking full-time employment since 2010. (USAF)
Nebraska has seen a 22% decrease in children living in poverty and a 17% decrease in children with parents lacking full-time employment since 2010. (USAF)
June 17, 2019

RALSTON, Neb. – Nebraska ranks 12th nationally on child well-being, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book, widely viewed as the most comprehensive annual report on children in the nation. Nebraska scored highest in economic security and education, but ranked just above average for family, community and child health.

Chrissy Tonkinson, research coordinator for Voices for Children in Nebraska, says the state's ranking of fifth nationally in economic well-being is not true for all of the state's children, and 66,000 Nebraska children remain in poverty.

"We see that in the percentage of children living in poverty,” Tonkinson states. “When only 14% of children as a whole living below that poverty line, there's a third or more a percent of children of color who are living in poverty just based simply on the color of your skin."

Nebraska is now home to nearly 100,000 more children of color since the first Data Book was published three decades ago, and that number is expected to grow.

Tonkinson says the rapid population change requires greater investments to remove barriers to health, education and economic security for all of Nebraska's children.

Leslie Boissiere, the Casey Foundation’s vice president for external affairs, says the report underscores the importance of getting an accurate count in the upcoming 2020 census.

She says the last census missed more than 2 million children under age five, and more could be missed if outreach to families with young children is not a priority.

Estimates show that every Nebraskan not counted would result in a loss of $21,000 in federal funding.

"The future of our children, the future of our communities, the strength of our country is really tied on the ability to ensure that the census count is accurate and to ensure that states and communities get the resources that they need to invest in the well-being of their families," Boissiere states.

Fifty-five major federal programs, including Head Start and the Children's Health Insurance Program, allocate more than $880 billion each year based on census data.

Nebraska's 19th rank in health was largely due to lack of health coverage for 26,000 children.

The state ranked 22nd in family and community due to a 42% decrease in teen birth rates, which currently are at an all-time low nationwide.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE