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MN Still Ranks High for Child Well-Being, But Not for Everybody

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Monday, June 21, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota continues to see encouraging results in child well-being, according to an annual report measuring key outcomes.

However, advocates worry the pandemic has slowed progress, while also calling for a more equitable recovery amid ongoing racial disparities.

This year's Kids Count report, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks Minnesota third in the U.S. when collectively looking at areas such as economic stability, education and health. The findings mostly include data from 2019.

Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota Chapter, noted there was positive movement in some areas, but it hasn't been enough to close racial gaps around the state, with sharp disparities in median income.

"When we look at economic well-being, we are looking at the intersection of wages, we are looking at the intersection of employment," Wahi explained. "And I think that those all interlocking sort of lead to what is, kind of, economic reality for children of color, Black and Indigenous children. "

She pointed out it can be a different reality when compared with their white counterparts, and urged policymakers to keep it in mind as they help families emerge from the crisis.

Post COVID-numbers still are being gathered, but Census Pulse Survey data, detailed in the report, showed nearly half of Minnesotans in households with children lost income last year.

As for pre-pandemic data, the Kids Count report said 11% of Minnesota children were living in poverty.

There's hope the recent expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit will deliver the financial support families need and reduce long-standing disparities.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, stressed the expansion is only temporary.

"We are excited, and grateful lawmakers passed the expansion," Boissiere stated. "And we're calling on them to make that expansion permanent. We'd like to ensure that we don't have the largest-ever one-year reduction in the number of children who live in poverty followed immediately by the largest-ever one-year increase."

At the state level, Wahi noted progress in getting lawmakers to provide more stable income and child-care support hasn't been easy.

"It is stunning to me how difficult it is to actually really pass bills that help our most under-resourced children," Wahi observed.

For individual categories, the Kids Count report, ranks Minnesota second in health. However, more than 40,000 kids around the state aren't covered by health insurance, with the biggest disparities among Latino and American Indian children.

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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