Kentucky ranks 34th in the nation in the well-being of children, according to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Kentucky has improved in many categories such as health, but was slightly worse on the percentage of young children not in school and the percentage of single parent families in the state.
There are trends in Kentucky that “invite people to take action,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of the non-profit Kentucky Youth Advocates. “Unless we get serious about tackling kid poverty, we are just nibbling at the edges on every thing else.”
Kentucky ranks 39th in the nation in terms of the economic well-being of children. Poverty remains the most persistent challenge for Kentucky children with more than one in four children living below the poverty line. Kentucky has 34 percent of kids living in families where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment. Kentucky also has nine percent of teens age 16 to 19 not attending school nor employed.
“The real challenge is can the governor and the General Assembly come up with proven common sense viable ways to begin tacking poverty,” Brooks said.
Other findings from the report:
▪ Kentucky ranks 24th in education. But three out of five fourth-graders scored below proficient in reading, nearly three in four eighth-graders scored below proficient in math, and 60 percent of children ages three and four are not attending school, according to the data used in the report. However, Kentucky is now ranked 6th in the nation for high school graduation with only 12 percent of students not graduating on time.
▪ Kentucky ranks 38th in family and community. Though Kentucky’s teen birth rate is still one of the highest in the nation, it fell by 30 percent from 2010 to 2015. Sixteen percent of children live in high-poverty areas.
▪ Kentucky ranks 22nd in health. Ninety-six percent of Kentucky children are enrolled in health coverage, up from 94 percent in 2013.