For 25 years, Kentucky Youth Advocates has produced an annual Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book providing data on child well-being for professionals, policymakers, and community members working to improve the lives of the children and families in the Commonwealth. We collect state and local data to show how kids in Kentucky are faring because of our firmly held belief: What gets measured gets changed.

To mark the 25th anniversary, we decided to take a look back and ask: What has changed for kids in Kentucky? We attempted to answer this question in two ways.

First, we examined how 8 key indicators of child well-being have changed over the past 25 years. We found some clear improvements. For instance, Kentucky’s teen birth rate has declined by 42 percent and our child and teen death rate has been cut in half since 1990.
Child&Teen death

In addition, the percentage of Kentucky children without health insurance has substantially decreased, to an historic low of 4 percent in 2014.

health insurance

Other indicators showed positive trends, but are nowhere close to acceptable. For instance, despite steady progress, 6 in 10 fourth graders are not meeting national standards of proficiency in reading and 7 in 10 eighth graders are not meeting national standards of proficiency in math.

4th graders reading

And of course, the main factor that influences child outcomes has proven stubbornly persistent. Following some progress in the late 1990’s, Kentucky’s child poverty rate is back to its 1995 level.


Read the complete analysis of all 8 indicators here.

Secondly, we looked at legislative and administrative policy wins enacted since 1990 to improve child well-being. We interviewed the folks that were involved — Legislative Research Commission staff, journalists, policymakers, and advocates, past and present — to compile a timeline of key policy wins for Kentucky children. And the good news? We found countless policy wins for kids that came about with the dedication and commitment of state leaders.  View an interactive version of the timeline “Key Policy Wins for Kentucky Children: 1990-2015” here.

We have made progress in 25 years. Yet, the data show that much work remains. There is no question that decisions made in Frankfort matter greatly to children. Good public policy can ensure that a child’s opportunity for success is not determined by the zip code she lives in, the color of her skin, or the structure of her family.

Children are counting on all of us — policymakers, professionals, and community leaders — to enact research-based solutions to achieve our vision of Kentucky as the best place in America to be young! We need your help to urge our leaders to enact good policies that will move the needle for children over the next 25 years. Explore ways that you can learn, attend, and act to help Kentucky kids here:

A limited number of print copies of Good Public Policies = A Brighter Future for Kentucky Kids: A 25 Year Retrospective are available. To order print copies, visit