Report: Indiana ranks 29th in overall child well-being for third consecutive year

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The Hoosier State continues to rank 29th in the nation for overall child well-being, according to an annual report from the Indiana Youth Institute.

The Kids Count Data Book offers a snapshot profile of child well-being statewide using indicators like economic well-being, family and community, education and health. Researchers and advocates then use those findings to offer specific insight as to how service providers and policymakers can address these needs at a local level.

The rankings are determined by analyzing studies and reports on a number of factors that would affect a child's well-being under each of the four aforementioned indicators. The report released this week was an executive summary of the full report, which is expected to be released later this year, due to pandemic-related delays at the federal level.

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Despite delays on county-level data and more specific details, the rankings are final, said the institute's CEO, Tami Silverman.

Releasing the executive summary gives service providers and legislators at the Statehouse information to ensure they're "looking at and having conversations about the newest data available related to how our kids are doing."

This is the third year Indiana has held the 29th spot in terms of overall well-being, the report found, ahead of neighboring states Ohio (31st) and Kentucky (37th) and behind Illinois (21st) and Michigan (28th).

While the state's ranking for family and community remained the same (31st), Indiana saw losses in every other domain: education fell two spots, to 17th; economic well-being fell to 18th; health dropped to 36th.

Story continues below report

The shift in rankings is attributable to a number of factors, Silverman said, including several identifiable areas in which the state needs to be better at supporting its youth.

"In some cases," Silverman said, "other states are getting better, faster."

Using data and field experience to guide policy, services

None of the information in the Kids Count Data Book is considered primary research — researchers aggregate data from a variety of sources and separate it into four factors, which the Institute refers to as "domains."

The Institute's work makes the data, which can sometimes be difficult to obtain and interpret, more accessible to Hoosiers, Silverman said.

Here are some other takeaways from the 2022 Indiana Kids Count executive summary:

  • The number of teen births per 1,000 dropped from 37 in 2010 to 21 in 2019.

  • 8.3% of Hoosier children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the time they're 18 — higher than the national average, 7.3%.

  • 231,000 children live in poverty.

  • Around 119,000 children do not have health insurance.

  • Just under 60% of the high school graduating class of 2019 enrolled in college within one year, down two percentage points compared to the 2018 cohort.

  • In 2020-21, 81.2% of third-graders passed the IREAD-3, a decrease of 6.1% from the 2018-19 year.

It's important to note, Silverman said, that several of the categories use 2019 data, which, in those cases, is still the most recently reported information. That means pandemic-era inequities may not yet be reflected in the numbers.

"It's gonna be a while before we get concrete information on the effects of the pandemic," she said. "We're hearing a lot of it from the field. ... A lot of folks talking about learning loss, a lot of folks talking about the connectivity gaps and what it has meant for kids' mental well-being and their social and emotional health, and yet, the data, the newest, best data, is typically a little bit behind."

Still, the data — and policy guidance issued alongside it — helps service providers and policymakers understand what's happening on the ground, Silverman said, but they don't exist in a silo.

"It's a coupling," she said. "It's not, the data's right or the field experience is right, it's that we need both of those to work together."

Silverman said the full 2022 Indiana Kids Count Data Book and county-level reports are expected to be released in the spring.

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at holly.hays@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 2022 Kids Count Data Book: Indiana ranks 29th in child well-being

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