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Health

Why Colorado Is Only The 20th Best State To Be A Child

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Kids Count Data Book 2016
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Annie E. Casey Foundation
The map above illustrates how states ranked on overall child well-being for 2016. The overall rank is a composite index derived from the combined data across the four domains: (1) Economic Well-Being, (2) Education, (3) Health and (4) Family.

Colorado consistently ranks at the top of national lists for livability, access to the great outdoors and for low adult obesity. But the Centennial State falls towards the middle in a national report by the Annie E. Casey foundation in taking care of its children. Taking into account data from all aspects of a child’s life, from education funding to health care coverage, Colorado ranks 20th, improving just one spot from 2015.

“That was largely driven by gains in economic well-being and the health of kids in our state,” said Colorado Children’s Coalition data analyst Sarah Barnes, whose organization works with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We saw our child poverty rate here in Colorado decline in 2014 for the second year in a row - that’s the first back to back decline that Colorado has seen in more than a decade.”

On the national level, the child poverty rate stayed flat - compared to the improvement that Colorado showed. The state’s teen birth rate was also down 50 percent since 2008, the steepest decline of any state in the nation, thanks in large part to a program that provides IUDs to low income young women.

“Taken together, those two areas, health care coverage and the declining teen birth rate, drove the small improvement that we saw in our state’s ranking this year,” Barnes said.

Other findings of the report are more concerning.

A quarter of children in Colorado don’t have a parent with secure employment. Barnes said while there has been some improvement, they “still see that more kids in Colorado are living in families where no parent is working full time year-round in 2014 than at the start of the recession.”

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Credit graphics courtesy Colorado Kids Count, animation by Jim Hill/KUNC

Statewide numbers also show that the cost of housing is also taking a toll on families. Three out of every 10 children live in a household that is struggling to pay for a roof over their head. The state’s education ranking also dropped three spots to 12th in the nation, which Barnes attributes “to a decline in test scores in math on a national assessment.” Colorado also remained close to the bottom half of states based on the “percent of babies born at a low birth weight and the percent of teens that abused alcohol or drugs.”

One change Barnes saw was staggering. In six years, over 100,000 children in Colorado gained health insurance.

“Back in 2008, Colorado had an uninsured rate for kids that was significantly higher than the national average. Over the next few years Colorado implemented state level policies like expanding the child health insurance program and [making] the Medicaid program more efficient and easier for families to use, and then of course federal health care reform took place. All of those combined to make a huge difference in the number of Colorado kids that have health coverage.”

The data comes from a number of different national sources, from the U.S. Census Bureau to education assessments. Minnesota ranked No. 1 in child well-being nationwide. Colorado’s neighbors, Kansas, Wyoming and Utah ranked 19, 12, and 9 respectively.

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