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Report: WA ranks high in childhood health, but lags in education

Washington ranks 15th in the nation for childhood well-being according to a new KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report ranks childhood well-being for all states based on measurements of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Each individual criterion is determined by four specific measurements.

Broken down, Washington ranks 5th in health, 16th for family and community measurements, 19th in economic well-being, and 26th in education. 

Washington’s high ranking for health measurements is due to the state’s low rates of uninsured children, low birth weight babies, and child/teen deaths. According to the report, 6.4 percent of babies born in Washington are low birth weight and three percent of children don’t have health insurance. By comparison, the national average for low birth weight babies is 8.2 percent and 4 percent for uninsured children.

“Children’s health is fundamental to their overall development, and ensuring kids are born healthy is the first step toward improving their life chances,” reads the report. “Poor health in childhood affects other critical aspects of a child’s life, such as school readiness and attendance, and can have lasting consequences on his or her future health and well-being.”

For family and community measurements, Washington ranks 16th. The report shows that 28 percent of children live in single-parent homes, 5 percent of children live in high poverty areas, and there are approximately 17 teen births per 1,000 in Washington. These figures are all below the national average where 35 percent of children live in single-parent families, 13 percent of children are from high poverty areas, and there are an average 20 teen births per 1,000.

Washington also ranks in the top half of all states in terms of economic well-being. In Washington, 14 percent of children live in poverty (compared to 19 percent nationally), 26 percent of children have parents without secure employment (28 percent nationally), and 31 percent of children live in homes with high housing cost burdens (32 percent nationally).

Washington’s lowest ranking is for education, at 26th in the nation. Washington ranks higher than the national average in terms of young children not in school (58 percent) and the percent of high schoolers that don’t graduate on time (20 percent). Washington does, however, rank slightly better than the national average for percent of 4th graders proficient in reading and percent of 8th graders proficient in math.

The top three states for childhood well-being are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Ranking at the bottom of the list are New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

You can explore the full data and make state-by-state comparisons here.