A Deeper Look at the National KIDS COUNT Data Book

2015KCDB_badge01_400pxOn Tuesday, we co-released with the Annie E. Casey Foundation the national 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book – considered by many to be the gold standard for measuring child well-being across the nation. Our press release highlights some of the Kentucky data found in the book, and you can view all of the Kentucky data, as well as information showing how each metric has changed since the start of the recession, in Kentucky’s state profile. I highly encourage you to read the one-page state profile to see how Kentucky’s children are currently faring in economic well-being, education, health, and family and community issues – I guarantee you’ll see at least one statistic that will surprise you.

Next week, executive director Terry Brooks will write a blog post explaining what policy and practice changes Kentucky could make to improve these child well-being data points. This week, I’m taking a deeper look at a few data points from Casey’s index of child well-being to reveal information you won’t get from just reading the book or the state profile.

Economic Security: While Kentucky’s current child poverty rate (25 percent) is still higher than it was at the start of the recession (23 percent), the 2013 data represent the first time since 2008 that our child poverty rate has moved in the downward direction. This is a much welcomed positive sign that the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession may finally be trickling down toward improved economic security for children. However, we have a long way to go – if Kentucky wants to at least achieve what is currently the best child poverty rate in the nation (10 percent in New Hampshire), we need to lift 152,000 kids out of poverty. Of course, even having just one in every ten children living in poverty would still be unacceptable.

Education: Those who pay really close attention to the national and county Data Books we release will notice that the 4th and 8th grade proficiency data each portrays for Kentucky never match up. The short explanation for this is that the publications have to use different data sources in order to make apples to apples comparisons of the different geographies they cover (states versus Kentucky counties). It is important to know that the data source used in the national book, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is the better gauge of whether students are actually proficient in a subject – which is why we make such a big deal out of the fact that the national book shows 64 percent of Kentucky 4th graders not proficient in reading and 70 percent of 8th graders not proficient in math. There is good news/bad news for those wanting to see our state proficiency standards on par with the more rigorous ones used by NAEP. The latest analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics shows Kentucky’s standards are moving closer than ever toward the NAEP proficiency standards, though for each grade and subject area, what Kentucky considers proficiency is only considered basic mastery (less than proficient) by NAEP.

Health: For five years in a row, the rate of children without health insurance in Kentucky has remained steady at 6 percent. The latest data available is for 2013, however, which is before expanded Medicaid took effect in Kentucky. It will be interesting to see when the 2014 data are released whether Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion has the ripple effect of getting more kids covered – we know that when parents have health coverage they are more likely to make sure their children have coverage too. What the national book doesn’t show is that there is a clear way to move our stubborn rate of 6 percent downward. When you look at the data on Kentucky’s uninsured children by race and ethnicity, it is obvious that we could make a big dent in our rate by making a targeted effort to insure more Hispanic/Latino children, who have the highest uninsured rate at 11 percent.

We talk a lot about data when the national and county Data Books are published, but you don’t have to wait on the books to see how children are faring in Kentucky. Visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center for hundreds of indicators of child and family well-being for your state, congressional district, county and school district.

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