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MN, ND rank high in child well-being ratings

North Dakota and Minnesota rank high in a national study of child well-being released Tuesday.

Minnesota ranked fifth and North Dakota sixth overall in the 25th annual Kids Count study released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Statistics from 16 areas tied to economics, education, health, and family and community are used to compile the rankings.

North Dakota was No. 1 in the nation in economic well-being. It was fourth in family and community indicators, 19th in education and 23rd in health.

Minnesota, which has stayed in the top five for more than a decade, was fourth in economic well-being, fifth in family and community, sixth in education and 17th in health.

Karen Olson, program director for North Dakota Kids Count at North Dakota State University, said the state improved in all four health measures and three of four education measures.

North Dakota’s vibrant economy also helped the state post the lowest child poverty rate in the U.S., Olson said. But that rate hasn’t changed since 2000, she said. That means 20,000 children live in conditions where their basic needs aren’t met.

About half of the state’s American Indian children live in poverty, Olson said.

North Dakota is tied for the fourth-worst ranking in the U.S. in preschool enrollment, Olson said. Investing in early childhood education is a difference-maker for high-risk kids, she said.

Minnesota has always done well in the study’s economic ratings, said Stephanie Hogenson, research and policy director for the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota.

Minnesota has a low unemployment rate and low child poverty percentage (15 percent, compared to 23 percent nationwide), she said.

Fewer Minnesota kids live in single-parent families or in areas of high poverty, Hogenson said. But there are “grave disparities” in those areas for children of color and American Indian children, she said.

Minnesota must invest in early childhood education, and in stronger elementary and secondary school programs, she said.

“Then we need to encourage all students, particularly children of color who are often first-generation college students, to go on to college,” Hogenson said.

“We really can’t afford to lose one child to poverty, poor health or crime,” she said.

Here’s how the 2014 rankings were compiled and how Minnesota and North Dakota compare:

  • The economic well-being ranking is determined by percentages of children living in poverty; children whose parents lack secure jobs; children living in households where the cost of housing is high; and teens not in school and not working.

Using 2012 data:

In North Dakota, 13 percent of children live in poverty, while 15 percent do so in Minnesota.

In North Dakota, 19 percent of children have parents without secure jobs. That rises to 24 percent in Minnesota.

In North Dakota, 16 percent of children live in households with high housing costs. In Minnesota, that rises to 29 percent.

North Dakota and Minnesota are tied at 5 percent for teens not in school and not working.

  • Education rankings are determined by percentages of children not attending preschool; fourth-graders not proficient in reading; eighth-graders not proficient in math; and high school students not graduating on time.

In Minnesota between 2010 and 2012, 54 percent of children did not attend preschool; 64 percent did not in North Dakota.

In Minnesota in 2013, 59 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, while it was 66 percent in North Dakota.

In Minnesota in 2013, 53 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math, while 59 percent were not in North Dakota.

In North Dakota in the 2011-12 school year, 9 percent of high school students did not graduate on time, while in Minnesota that was 12 percent.

  • Health rankings are determined by the percentage of low-birth weight babies; children without health insurance; child and teen deaths per 100,000; and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.

In North Dakota, 6.2 percent of children born in 2012 were considered low-birthweight. In Minnesota, that was 6.6 percent.

In Minnesota in 2012, 5 percent of children were without health insurance; in North Dakota, 7 percent had no health insurance.

In 2010, there were 25 child and teen deaths per 100,000. In North Dakota, there were 34 per 100,000.

In North Dakota in 2011-12, about 6 percent of teens abused drugs or alcohol; that was 7 percent in Minnesota.

  • Family and community rankings include percentages of children in single-parent families; children in families where the head of the household does not have a high school diploma; children living in high-poverty areas; and teen births per 1,000.

In North Dakota in 2012, 28 percent of children lived in single-parent families, while 29 percent did so in Minnesota.

In North Dakota in 2012, 5 percent of children lived in families where the head of the household did not have a high school diploma. In Minnesota, it was 8 percent.

From 2008 to 2012 in Minnesota, 6 percent of children lived in high-poverty areas. In North Dakota, that was 7 percent. In 2012, Minnesota recorded 19 teen births per 100,000. In North Dakota, there were 26 teen births per 100,000.

South Dakota was ranked 17th overall in child well-being in the nation. It was second in indicators for economic well-being, 24th in family and community, 32nd in education and 33rd in health.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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