North Carolina ranked 33rd in the nation for overall children’s and families’ health and well-being, according to the recently published 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state annual report of recent household data developed by the Annie E Casey Foundation. The Data Book includes statistics and rankings for children and families’ economic well-being (27th), education (23rd), health (34th), and family and community context (33rd). It also highlighted the growing child care crisis.
Child care challenges
Kids, families, and the economy all benefit from affordable, accessible, and quality child care. Today, one in six North Carolina children under age 6 live in families in which someone had to quit, change, or turn down a job due to problems with child care. Women were most likely to feel that impact.
North Carolina’s average cost of center-based child care for a toddler in 2021 was $9,916. That’s roughly 10% of the median income for a married couple and 33% of the median income for a single mother.
More than half of children ages 3 and 4 were not attending school between 2017 and 2021, even though children in early childhood education programs are less likely to repeat a grade, more prepared academically for later grades, more likely to graduate from high school, and eventually higher earners in the workforce.
Making child care affordable and accessible will support children’s health and development, keep parents in the workforce, and strengthen North Carolina’s economy.
Lagging health outcomes
North Carolina is home to some of the highest caliber universities and medical systems, and still children’s health outcomes are lagging behind other states. North Carolina ranked 34th in health outcomes in this year’s Data Book. In 2021, 9.4% of babies were born with low birth weights, and the number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 has continued to grow.
North Carolina ranked 23rd in education, coming in barely within the top half of states. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is evident in many of the educational outcomes published in the 2023 Data Book: three out of five 4th graders cannot read at grade level, and three out of four 8th graders scored below grade level in math last school year.