A new report ranks Oklahoma at No. 40 among U.S. states for child well-being, an improvement from the previous year but still lagging behind other states.
Last year, Oklahoma ranked 42nd in the annual Kids Count report, which is produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and evaluates states in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Oklahoma ranked highest among those four categories for economic well-being at 32nd, one spot higher than it did last year.
On the other categories, it ranked among the bottom 10 states. Oklahoma was:
41st in family and community, the same spot it held last year
45th in education, the same spot it held last year
42nd in health, the same spot it held last year
“Oklahoma continues to lag behind states that are making meaningful investments in the health, education, and overall well-being of their children,” Gabrielle Jacobi, child well-being policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said in a statement. “The net result is that far too many children in our communities live in poverty, have unhealthy lives, and are behind the educational outcomes of their peers in other parts of the country.”
The report, which is based on a mix of pre-pandemic data and more recent figures, also highlighted what officials have called an epidemic of youth mental health crises.
In Oklahoma, 1 in 8 children ages 3 to 17 had anxiety or depression in 2020, up 15 percent from results in 2016.
The state rankings are based on 16 indicators of child well-being. Oklahoma ranked among the bottom half of states in all but one, which was Oklahoma’s percentage of households spending more than 30% of their income on housing. One in four Oklahoma children live in households that have a high housing cost burden, which is less than the national average.
But the report also found that more than 1 in 5 Oklahoma children (195,000) live in poverty. And 260,000 Oklahoma children have parents who lack secure employment, according to the report.
Like in last year’s edition, the 2022 report showed that Oklahoma children were struggling to keep up in school: 71% of fourth-graders weren’t proficient in reading, and 74% of eighth graders weren’t proficient in math.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma ranks No. 40 for child well-being in latest Kids Count report