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Kids Count Data Offers Mixed Bag for N.C., The Pilot (08.17.2012)

If the new analysis released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is any indication, previous investments in the health and education of children in North Carolina have generated dividends, returns which now stand in jeopardy due to recent state budget cuts and eroding family economic security.

That is according to the recently released 2012 Kids Count Book. It offers a sophisticated view of child well-being, swapping the report’s standard 10 indicator analysis for an index of 16 indicators grouped into four domains: health, economic well-being, education, and family and community.

The report shows North Carolina lands in the middle of the pack in health (26) and education (25), but lags behind in economic well-being (35) and family and community (36), a news release said. North Carolina ranks 34th out of 50 states in overall child well-being.

“The 2012 Kids Count Data Book shows mixed progress for children in North Carolina,” said Deborah Bryan, president and CEO of Action for Children North Carolina, a statewide child policy, research and advocacy organization, and home of the NC Kids Count project. “Although changes in the data book prevent us from comparing this rank with previous years, the trend within many indicators, particularly those of economic well-being, show North Carolina children are losing important ground.”

Economic indicators, such as the share of children living in poverty or whose parents lack full-time employment, are bellwethers, signaling looming challenges that upset other areas of child well-being long before their effects are captured in the data, the news release said.

The report finds children in North Carolina have been hard-hit in both areas, with the percent of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment jumping 25 percent, from 28 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in 2010. One in every four children in North Carolina (25 percent) now lives in poverty, the release said.

The report finds the number of children without health insurance declined 20 percent since the start of the recession. As children and families in North Carolina have lost access to employer-sponsored health insurance, either because of unemployment or declining employer participation, children’s access to health coverage has been bolstered by Medicaid and NC Health Choice, the state children’s health insurance program, the release said.

More than 1 million children in North Carolina, more than four in every 10 children in the state, receive access to health insurance through these programs.

In education, the state breaks into the top 20 best performing states, ranking 20th in two indicators: fourth-grade reading proficiency and eighth-graders proficient in math.

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