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Report Finds Sharp Disparities in Childhood Experience by County

Childhood experience in the United States varies greatly by county, according to a new report. (Adobe Stock)
Childhood experience in the United States varies greatly by county, according to a new report. (Adobe Stock)
June 10, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Oldham County ranks in the top three counties nationwide for doing the most to protect and provide for its children, according to a new analysis of childhood experience by county.

The report by the nonprofit group Save The Children analyzed data from more than 2,600 counties across the United States. Mark Shriver, Save the Children's senior vice president for U.S. programs and advocacy, said Kentucky has made strides in improving its infant mortality rate, among other factors.

"One of the other indicators that moves Kentucky up," he said, "is that Kentucky is fourth in the nation for on-time graduation."

Oldham County is one of the wealthiest in the state, which likely is a factor in its high ranking. Shriver said stark disparities remain in much of the state. In Clay County, for instance, 30% of children are food-insecure, compared with 12% in Oldham County.

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

"We need, as citizens, to demand that we invest in our children, or else we're going to see these systems of racial and economic injustice persist."

The report's findings underscore how racial and economic divides limit opportunities for children of color and for those living in rural communities. Shriver said those differences are magnified when seen at the county level.

"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," he said, "and almost 30% of bottom-ranked counties are majority Native American."

The report's authors said the data indicate states that spend more on children, and prioritize legislation to improve conditions for families, tend to have better outcomes and rank higher than states where political leaders aren't making kids a priority.

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 - KY