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Report Ranks Utah 7th Overall in Child Well-Being

While Utah ranks high for overall child well-being, advocates say the state needs to put more funding into its education system to give kids a better chance in life. (AdobeStock)
While Utah ranks high for overall child well-being, advocates say the state needs to put more funding into its education system to give kids a better chance in life. (AdobeStock)
June 18, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah remains near the top of the national rankings for overall child well-being, according to a new report. The state ranked highest in family and community, landing in the top spot, and lowest in health, ranking 21st among all the states.

The rankings were part of the annual Kids Count Data Book, released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Terry Haven, deputy director at Voices for Utah Children, said although the state is doing well in some categories, the number of kids that are in need continues to be a moving target.

"But the reality is we also have a lot more kids in general. We're now home to almost 300,000 more children than 1990,” Haven said. “So even in those areas where we saw improvement, Utah still has more children lacking opportunities that are afforded to others. "

Haven said while Utah moved from seventh to fourth in economic well-being, 24% of children live in households with high housing-cost burdens and almost 100,000 still live in poverty. She added Utah has also made improvements in the percentage of 3-and 4-year-olds in preschool, although the state still lags behind the national average.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs with the Casey Foundation said they have published the data book for 30 years, and this year it looks back at the demographic and geographic trends and how child well-being has fared over that time.

"We're seeing a tremendous increase in diversity in children in our country, a lot of the growth in the South and the West. In 14 states and the District of Columbia, children of color represent the majority in those communities," Boissiere said.

Haven said Utah's biggest challenge may be to convince lawmakers to properly fund the state's education system.

"We know that we're in the bottom of the barrel in terms of per-pupil funding, and the fact is they do get more money. Every year we get a lot more money for education,” Haven said. “But the problem is every year we also have more kids. So we're not improving, we're just keeping pace."

Boissierre stressed the importance of an accurate census count in 2020. She said 55 major federal programs will allocate more than $880 billion next year alone nationwide based on census data.

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.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT