Arkansas continues to rank low in child wellbeing

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,894 views 

photo from Annie Casey Foundation

Arkansas ranks 43rd in child well-being, with low birth weight babies and teen obesity rates being worse than the national average, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing the health of children and families.

The 50-state 2022 Kids Count Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. The data in this year’s report are a mix of pre-pandemic and more recent figures and are the latest available.

The report sheds light on the health, economic and other challenges affecting American children as well as how those challenges are more likely to affect Black, Native American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino children.

Following are some data points from the report posted Monday (Aug. 8).
• Children in poverty (2016-2020)
U.S.: 17% (better than the 21% between 2008-2012)
Arkansas: 22% (better than the 27% between 2008-2012)

• Low birth weight babies (2020)
U.S.: 8.2%, up from 8.1% in 2010
Arkansas: 9.6%, up from 8.8% in 2020

• Teen deaths per 100,000 (2020)
U.S.: 28, up from 26 in 2010
Arkansas: 40, up from 34 in 2010

• High school students not graduating (2018-2019)
U.S.: 14%, down from 21% in 2010-2011
Arkansas: 12%, down from 19% in 2010-2011

Arkansas ranked 39 in economic wellbeing, 34 in education, 46 in health, and 46 in family and community.

According to a statement from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF), the report “shows Arkansas is a harder place to be a child than almost anywhere else in the country.” AACF notes that the state is losing ground in preschool enrollment, low birth weight rates, child and teen deaths, and teen obesity prevalence.

“There are state-level policy solutions to every troubling piece of data,” AACF Executive Director Rich Huddleston said in a statement. “Lack of political will and lack of targeted investments in our children keeps Arkansas near the bottom of the states. While Arkansas’s lawmakers this week begin debating giving generous tax cuts to the wealthiest Arkansans, we’ve got more children living in poverty, more students lacking proficiency in reading and math, and more teens giving birth than in most other states.”

Following are some of the AACF proposals to improve child wellbeing in the state.
• Extend postpartum coverage for new mothers in Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months.
• Provide presumptive Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women, allowing them to be approved for Medicaid coverage quickly based on their income level.
• Allow children and babies in the lowest-income families to keep their ARKids First health insurance for a full year of continuous coverage, rather than kicking them off their insurance when their family incomes fluctuate month-to-month.
• Change state-level policies that make it more difficult for Arkansas families to obtain SNAP benefits and to get enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
• Require scientifically based sex education in schools, and make it easier for Arkansans, including teens, to obtain long-acting contraception.