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California 41st in the Nation on Children’s Well-Being, According to New Report

Jul 24, 2012

Oakland, CA—California ranks 41st of 50 states in children’s overall well-being, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, released today in partnership with Children Now. The revamped Data Book ranks each state on 16 key indicators across four broad domains of Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. With the exception of Health, where California ranks 23rd, the state ranks at the bottom of all other categories of children’s well-being.

“This report shows California is continuing to sell children short,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “We know the smartest investment the state can make is in children’s development. By choosing to prioritize other political interests, the state’s policymakers are passing big, unnecessary costs to all Californians and the rest of the nation.”

Economic Well-Being - Rank: 45
California children are struggling in the wake of the recession, with 36 percent of the state’s children (3.3 million) living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. This is a 20 percent increase since 2008 (38th ranking). Over half of California’s children live in households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing (50th ranking), an indication California families are likely struggling to pay for other basic necessities, such as food, clothing and health care. Twenty-two percent of California’s children live in poverty (30th ranking). And 8 percent of teenagers, ages 16-19, are neither employed nor attending school (16th ranking).

Education - Rank: 43
According to the Data Book, only 48 percent of California’s 3- and 4-year-olds attend preschool (17th ranking). Moreover, an astounding 75 percent of the state’s fourth-graders score below proficient in reading (46th ranking), and 75 percent of eighth-graders score below proficient in math (44th ranking), indicating too many California students risk failing to graduate from high school. California ranks 42nd in the percentage of 12th-graders who graduate on time.

Health - Rank: 23
California is almost squarely in the middle on children’s health. With strong measures of infant health, the state ranks 11th in the percentage of infants born at low birth weight (6.8%). California ranks 12th in child death rates and 25th in the percentage of teens abusing alcohol and drugs (8%). Most notable is California’s 35th ranking on the percentage of children without health insurance. Nearly one in ten (9%) children lacks health insurance, which compromises the health and well-being of 833,000 California children each year.

Family & Community - Rank: 42
Family and community are critical to children’s opportunity to succeed (42nd ranking). Approximately one in four California children (26%) lives in a family where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, placing the state last in the nation. Thirty-three percent of children live in single parent households (23rd ranking). Though California is one of only nine states that reduced the number of children living in poverty from 2000 to 2006-2010, 11 percent of children still live in high-poverty areas (33rd ranking). Additionally, California ranks 24th in teen births.

“These numbers are particularly disturbing, given over one in ten of the nation’s children lives in California,” said Children Now’s Lempert. “The last couple of years have seen California children bearing the brunt of the state’s budget cuts. We must hold the state’s policymakers more accountable for failing to invest in children, because their poor decisions will certainly have a lasting effect on the economic and civic fabric of our state.”

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