Kentucky ranks 37th among the states in children's well-being, according to the 2018 Kids County Data Book, released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which conducted the research.
The book ranks the states based on several factors, including health, economics, education and family and community. A Kentucky Kids Count County Data Book showing county-by-county data across the state will be released in November.
Kentucky ranked 28th in health, 29th in education, 39th in family and community and 40th in economics among the 50 states.
The report cited health care coverage as a positive for the state, but the number of low birth weight babies (9.1 percent) and teen death rate (34 per 100,000) have increased since 2010.
In education, Kentucky has 89 percent of its students graduating on time - ranking fourth in the nation in that category - but there has been no significant improvement in fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math proficiency levels from 2009 to 2017.
The report says 62 percent of Kentucky fourth-graders are currently below proficient in reading and 71 percent of eighth-graders are below proficient in math. Additionally, 59 percent of children ages 3 to 4 are not attending school in Kentucky.
In family and community, the teen birth rate fell 33 percent from 2010 to 2016 to 31 births per 1,000 females age 15 to 19.
The percent of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma also decreased during that time, declining to 11 percent. The percent of children living in high-poverty areas remains at 16 percent.
In economics, Kentucky has improved since 2010 but at a slower pace than other states.
"One in 4 children is living in poverty," the report said. "Thirty-three percent of children live in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment, though the indicator improved by 11 percent from 2010 to 2016. Now at 8 percent, the percent of teens age 16 to 19 not attending school and not working has also improved since 2010."
The 2018 Kids Count report also emphasizes the need for an accurate count of Kentucky children in the 2020 census.
"Without an accurate count of all Kentucky kids in 2020, we risk leaving money on the table that could be used for health care, education and other vital programs many young children in low-income families count on for a healthy and strong start in life," said Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.
According to Kids Count, children under age 5 have repeatedly been the most undercounted age group in the census everywhere in the nation. Census expert Bill O'Hare estimated that in the 2010 census, 8,000 Kentucky children age 0 to 4 were missed.
It is also estimated that 11 percent of Kentucky children under age 5 live in hard-to-count areas, which include parts of eastern Kentucky and west Louisville.
"If our youngest kids aren't getting counted, they won't get the resources they need to grow, learn and succeed," said Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. "I urge our local leaders in Louisville and across Kentucky to prioritize our hardest to count kids by prioritizing the 2020 census. We must take advantage of all available funds; our kids deserve it."
The 2018 Kids Count Data Book can be found online at aecf.org.