Arkansas drops two spots in Kids Count child well-being report

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 1 views 

Arkansas fell from 43rd to 45th out of the 50 states in child well-being in the 35th annual edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book.

The state fell six places in the report’s economic well-being domain and five places in health compared to last year. It saw a steep decline in its eighth-grade math proficiency scores from 2019 to 2022. Its teen birth rate improved, but it remained far higher than the national average.

Arkansas ranked ahead of five states overall: Oklahoma at 46th followed by Nevada, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico at 50th. The five states ahead of Arkansas were South Carolina at 40th followed by Alaska, Arizona, Texas and West Virginia at 44th.

Among Arkansas’ other neighbors, Missouri was 32nd while Tennessee was 36th.

New Hampshire was number one followed by Massachusetts, Utah, Vermont and Minnesota.

States were ranked according to the following domains: economic well-being, health, education, and family and community.

Arkansas was 46th in economic well-being, a drop from 40th in the previous report. It was 47th in health after ranking 42nd last year. It was 36th in education, which was one better than last year’s ranking of 37th. In family and community. Arkansas was 46th, the same as last year.

Each of those domains was composed of four indicators. Arkansas ranked worse than the national average in 13 out of 16 indicators and in the bottom 10 states in eight indicators.

Arkansas dropped farthest in economic well-being, from 40th to 46th.

In two of the four indicators, Arkansas’ numbers were worse in 2022 than they were in 2019. Eleven percent of Arkansas teens were not in school and not working in 2022, which was worse than the 7% finding in 2019. Both numbers were worse than the national averages of 7% in 2022 and 6% in 2019. Twenty-five percent of Arkansas children were living in households with a high housing cost burden in 2022 (30% of family income), which was worse than the 22% found in 2019. Arkansas fared better than the national average, where 30% lived in such housing in both 2022 and 2019.

Arkansas’ numbers remained the same in two economic well-being indicators. Twenty-two percent of Arkansas‘ children were living in poverty in 2022, the same as in 2019. That was worse than the national average of 16%, which improved from 17% in 2019. Twenty-nine percent of Arkansas children’s parents lacked secure employment in 2022, the same as 2019. That was worse than the national average of 26% in 2022, which was the same as it was in 2019.

Arkansas ranked worse than the national average in all four health indicators.

  • Six percent of Arkansas children lacked health insurance in 2022, the same as in 2019. Arkansas’ 2022 score was worse than the national average of 5%, which was better than its 6% in 2019.
  • Thirty-seven percent of Arkansas children and teens ages 10-17 were overweight or obese in 2021-22, compared to a national average of 33%. The numbers weren’t compared to an earlier figure.
  • Arkansas’ child and teen death rates worsened from 35 per 100,000 in 2019 to 44 in 2022. Those numbers were worse than the national averages, which increased from 25 per 100,000 in 2019 to 30 in 2022.
  • Finally, 9.3% of Arkansas babies were low birth weight in 2022, which was worse than the 9.2% in 2019. Both numbers were worse than the national average, which worsened from 8.3% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2022.

Arkansas ranked worse than the national average in three of the four indicators in education. In three of the four, Arkansas’ numbers were worse in 2022 than they were in 2019.

  • Only 19% of Arkansas eighth-graders were proficient in math in 2022, which was worse than the 27% in 2019. Those averages were worse than the national averages of 26% in 2022 and 33% in 2019.
  • Thirty percent of Arkansas fourth-graders were proficient in reading in 2022, which was worse than the 31% in 2019. Those numbers were worse than the national averages of 32% in 2022 and 34% in 2019.
  • Twelve percent of Arkansas high school students did not graduate on time in 2020-21, the same as in 2018-19. That was better than the 14% nationally who did not graduate on time in either time period.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Arkansas’ young children ages 3 and 4 were not in school in 2018-22, which was higher than the 52% in 2013-17. The 2018-22 number was higher than the national average of 54%, which increased from 52% in 2013-17.

The report noted that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in steep drops in students’ performance nationwide. The 26% of eighth graders testing proficient in math was the worst score in two decades.

It noted 47% of Arkansas children in 2021-22 had an adverse childhood experience, while 26% were chronically absent from school.

The state improved in all four indicators in the family and community category but performed worse than the national average in three of them.

  • Arkansas’ teen birth rate fell from 30 teen births per 1,000 in 2019 to 25 in 2022. Those numbers were far higher than the national averages of 17 in 2019 and 14 in 2022.
  • Thirty-six percent of Arkansas children were living in single-parent families in 2022, which was lower than the 37% in 2019. Those numbers were lower than the 34% national average both years.
  • Ten percent of Arkansas children lived in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, which was an improvement from 11% in 2019. Those numbers were lower than the national averages of 11% in 2022 and 12% in 2019.
  • Eleven percent of Arkansas children were living in high-poverty areas in 2018-22, which was lower than the 14% in 2013-17. Those numbers were higher than the national averages of 8% in 2018-22 and 12% in 2013-17.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that seeks to improve children’s futures. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is its Arkansas-based partner.