The 2013 National KIDS COUNT Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation paints a fairly comprehensive picture of how Kentucky’s children and youth are faring and tells us whether Kentucky has been moving in the right direction on important indicators of child well-being.

The Data Book measures child well-being through 16 indicators, with 4 indicators in each of these 4 domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. What is quickly apparent when looking at the state profile for Kentucky (below) is that our state has indeed been moving in the right direction for most of the 16 indicators (note the green bars that say “Improved”). That’s the good news. In fact, Kentucky has improved on all of the indicators within the education and health domains. That’s great news!

The bad news however is two-fold. First, there is the obvious bad news that Kentucky has worsened over time on 5 of the 16 indicators (note the yellow bars that say “Worsened”). Most notable is that our state has been moving in the wrong direction on the 3 indicators of parental income, finances, and employment. The fact that more than 1 in every 4 Kentucky children lives in poverty is truly a black mark against our state. No doubt contributing to this statistic are the additional facts that nearly one-third of children live in households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing and well over one-third of children don’t have even one parent employed full-time, year-round.

The other bad news is that some of the good news isn’t all good. For example, though Kentucky has improved on children being enrolled in a public or private preschool, more than half of 3- and 4-year olds are not receiving that critical early childhood educational experience. Also, while Kentucky has improved on 4th grade reading proficiency, nearly two-thirds of our 4th graders are not proficient in reading – a truly alarming situation given the evidence that reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade is fundamental to later academic achievement.

For another view on the 2013 National KIDS COUNT Data Book read our state news release. Go here to view the full Data Book and all of the accompanying information provided by the Casey Foundation. Also, stay tuned to our blog for more information on this report and ways we can work together to improve our ranking.