Kids Count survey shows drops in economic categories

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January 10th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The latest “Iowa Kids Count” survey shows a distinct impact from the economy on the well-being of kids in the state. Iowa Kids County director, Michael Crawford, says the survey looks at 20 categories to determine how well families are faring. The latest survey covers 2010, and provides a comparison over the decade going back to 2000. “The 2010 Iowa Kids Count data book shows that the economic situation for families — particularly low and moderate income families — has shown little improvement over the last few years. Economic indicators such as unemployment, food assistance and child poverty all have continued to increase the past few years, with substantial increases since 2000,” Crawford says. “There is evidence that some improvement did take place in 2011, but we won’t know the final numbers until later this year.”

Among the economic factors in the report released today (Tuesday), it shows that unemployment increased by just over 137-percent in the last decade, food assistance eligibility has increased almost 168-percent, free or reduced-price lunch eligibility in schools has increased over 39-percent and child poverty has increased by 44-point-five-percent. Crawford says there are positive signs in the data for health and education. “Teen births have decreased, as has a majority of the child mortality indicators. Educationally, high school graduation and grade level test scores have shown modest increases,” Crawford says. Child deaths were down 38-percent in the last decade, infant mortality dropped 23-percent, teen births were down over 16-percent. On the education front, the high school graduation rate was up seven-tenths of a percent in the decade, eight grade math proficiency was up almost seven percent and fourth grade reading proficiency was up two-point-seven percent.

Crawford says the economic factors that have hit Iowa kids in the last decade are part of the national trend. “We are in the same boat as everybody else, we’re trying to create jobs for individuals, put people who’re unemployed back to work and I think that’s obviously the biggest goal of legislators and policymakers this year,” according to Crawford. While Iowa has seen some drops in the numbers of the last 10 years, Crawford says Iowa ranks in the top 10 when it comes to a comparison with other states in the national Kids Count data book. But, he says a high national ranking is not a reason to stop trying to improve. “As I say, I like to compare Iowa to Iowa, where we were 10 years ago and where we are now and improve on what we need to improve on,” Crawford says. The state’s unemployment rate has gone down recently and Crawford says that is one factor that is positive and there may be others as the data is put together for 2011.

The survey is made available through the Child and Family Policy Center and you can see the complete report at: www.cfpciowa.org.

(Dar Danielson/Radio Iowa)