June 29, 2006
Report Shows North Dakota Ranks 9th for Children’s Health and Well-being
A new report shows North Dakota ranks ninth best among all states in a new state-by-state study that reports on the well-being of America’s children.
The 2006 “KIDS COUNT Data Book” is the 17th annual report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report indicates that North Dakota improved in two out of 10 measures that reflect child well-being, experienced setbacks in five measures and saw no change in three measures since 2000.
Richard Rathge, North Dakota KIDS COUNT executive director and director of the North Dakota State Data Center at North Dakota State University, points out that the 10 measures are not a comprehensive range of conditions that shape children’s lives. However, they do reflect a wide range of factors affecting the well-being of children, such as health, education, family income levels and experiences across the developmental stages from birth through early adulthood, and are a consistent comparison from state to state through time.
North Dakota saw notable improvements in two areas. North Dakota ranked fifth best in the nation with children having secure parental employment. The percent of North Dakota children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment decreased from 29 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2003. Also, infant mortality decreased between 2000 and 2003. The mortality rate decreased from 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births to 7.3, though North Dakota is still higher than the national rate of 6.9 live births per 1,000 in 2003.
North Dakota experienced setbacks in five areas. North Dakota experienced an increase in both the teen death rate and the child death rate from 2000 to 2003. North Dakota’s teen death rate increased significantly from 52 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2000 to 85 in 2003 and is higher than the national rate of 66 deaths per 100,000 teens in 2003. The North Dakota child death rate (ages 1 to14) went from 19 deaths per 100,000 children in 2000 to 25 in 2003.
“Caution needs to be exercised based on relatively small numbers which may exhibit some random fluctuation from year to year,” says Rathge. “However, consider it a red flag and take a closer look at what is occurring and the possible reasons.”
Current data also indicates that the percentage of low-birthweight babies, the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage of children in single-parent families all had slightly negative trends in North Dakota since 2000.
North Dakota continues to rank first with the lowest percent of teens who are high school dropouts. While North Dakota saw no change in the dropout rate from 2000 to 2004, the national dropout rate decreased from 11 percent to 8 percent during these four years. Teen birth rates (27 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19) and teens not attending school and not working (4 percent) remained unchanged between 2000 and 2003 in North Dakota.
Early childhood experiences of young children are highlighted in the new 2006 KIDS COUNT Data Book, which includes a special focus on children under age 6 who are in family-based child care. Family-based child care is defined as noncenter-based care provided to young children in a home other than their own and includes licensed as well as unlicensed small-group settings.
North Dakota has the second largest proportion of children under age 6 in family-based care. In 2003, 18,000 North Dakota children less than 6 years old were in family-based care, which represents 41 percent of the state’s children in this age group. This percentage is well above the percent of children nationwide in family-based child care (27 percent) and only South Dakota has a larger percentage (47 percent) than North Dakota.
“Contributing factors to this large proportion of family-based care in North Dakota may include fewer nonhome (center-based) child-care options in sparsely populated rural communities, a higher percentage of women with children less than age 6 who are in the labor force and one of the largest proportions of multiple-job holders in the nation,” Rathge says.
Child care, whether center-based, family, friend or neighbor care, is important to the working families in North Dakota and across the nation. The informal structure of family, friend and neighbor care makes strategies to strengthen this form of care more challenging. However, the Casey Foundation is committed to advancing the efforts to strengthen this form of care, particularly for low-income families. The Casey Foundation recognizes “that when the youngest children have opportunities to develop language and reading skills, we see better academic achievements that can provide important social benefits for children at risk of poor outcomes.”
Detailed information about how North Dakota compares with the nation and other states is available in the new 2006 National KIDS COUNT Data Book at www.kidscount.org. A comprehensive look at the well-being of North Dakota’s children, with county-level data and additional indicators, can be found in the 2006 North Dakota KIDS COUNT Fact Book at www.ndkidscount.org, available in mid-July.