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Report: Arkansas Trails Much of Nation for Children's Well-Being

More than 23% of children in Arkansas live in families that face hunger on a regular basis. (Adobe Stock)
More than 23% of children in Arkansas live in families that face hunger on a regular basis. (Adobe Stock)
June 10, 2020

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Being a kid is a very different experience depending on where you live in Arkansas.

Saline County is the top-ranked county in the state, in a new analysis of childhood experiences across America. The report from the group Save the Children examines a number of factors that cut childhood short -- including food insecurity, dropping out of high school, early pregnancy and early death -- in more than 2,600 counties across the nation.

Mark Shriver, Save the Children's senior vice president for U.S. programs and advocacy, said it reveals deep inequities in places such as St. Francis County.

"Kids are doing best in Saline County and they're struggling the most in St. Francis County," he said. "In St. Francis County, stunningly, the child poverty rate is 46%, which means almost one in every other kid is growing up in poverty."

The report found that in the bottom-ranked counties nationwide, children die at rates up to five times higher than those in the highest-ranked counties, are 15 times more likely to drop out of high school, and 26 times more likely to get pregnant.

Shriver said it's time to hold lawmakers accountable for making sure all Arkansas children have a foundation for success.

"Folks, I think, in Arkansas obviously need to demand that their political leaders need to invest more in programs that we know help children come out of poverty," he said.

Shriver said the findings underscore that racial and economic divides limit opportunities for children of color and for those living in rural communities.

"And you see that 30% of the bottom-ranked counties are majority-black, despite the fact that they account for 3% of U.S. counties. And almost 30% of bottom-ranked counties are majority-Native American."

While the figures in the report were collected before the coronavirus pandemic, he added that children in disadvantaged communities are likely being hardest hit by the crisis.

The report is online at savethechildren.org.

Disclosure: Save the Children contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Early Childhood Education, Education, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - AR