WV ranks 43rd nationally in kids’ well-being

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WV ranks 43rd nationally in kids’ well-being
By Brad McElhinny, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia ranks 43rd in the country in terms of children’s well-being, according to the latest Kids Count report.

Last year, West Virginia ranked 39th. The year before that, the state ranked 43rd. And in 2014, West Virginia ranked 37th.

The states that rank behind West Virginia include Alabama (44), Arkansas (45), Arizona (46), Nevada (47), Louisiana (48), New Mexico (49) and Mississippi (50).

“States in the Southeast, Southwest and Appalachia — where states have the lowest levels of household income — populated the bottom of the Overall rankings,” according to Kids Count.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont were considered the top three states in terms of child well-being.

The data to judge children’s well-being is gathered annually by KidsCount, which is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

West Virginia’s economic well-being rank is 42nd nationally, and its health rank is 36th. A rank indicating the state’s strength of family and community is 33rd.

Although the latest report was released in June, the data actually reflects what was happening through 2015, the most recent full year of statistics available.

West Virginia was worse than the national average in several indicators of child well-being.

Twenty-five percent of children in West Virginia live in poverty, compared to the 21 percent national average. West Virginia had the same percentage last year and has been around that same ratio several years in a row.

The raw number of West Virginia considered to be living in poverty is 94,000.

The percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment was 37 percent in West Virginia, compared to the national average of 29 percent.

West Virginia has a slightly higher than average percentage of children living in single-parent families. West Virginia’s rate is 38 percent. That’s compared to the national average of 35 percent.

West Virginia’s percentage of low-birthweight babies is 9.6 percent. The national average is 8.1 percent.

“Babies born with a low birthweight have a high probability of experiencing developmental problems and short- and long-term disabilities and are at greater risk of dying within the first year of life,” according to Kids Count.

“Smoking, poor nutrition, poverty, stress, infections and violence can increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birthweight.”

West Virginia’s child and teen death rate is 29 per 100,000. That’s a bit lower than other years of the recent past. The national average is 25 out of 100,000. Kids Count notes that accidents, particularly vehicle accidents, are the leading cause of death for youth.

In some areas, West Virginia did better than the national average.

The children living in households with a high housing cost burden was 22 percent in West Virginia, compared to 33 percent for the nation.

Compared to the national average, West Virgnia’s poverty is spread out. Kids Count says 9 percent of West Virginia children live in communities of concentrated poverty. The national average is 14 percent.

“Concentrated poverty puts whole neighborhoods, and the people living in them, at risk. High-poverty neighborhoods are much more likely than others to have high rates of crime and violence, physical and mental health issues, unemployment and other problems,” according to Kids Count.