Michigan lags in child well-being

By most accounts, Michigan has done a good job of extending health insurance to kids in a down economy, but it falls in the bottom half of the states in most other categories of child well-being.  The 2012 KIDS COUNT rankings were released today by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

In the rankings, Michigan comes in 32nd among the 50 states (with New Hampshire No. 1, the best ranking), and it posted the worst overall ranking in the Great Lakes region, with Minnesota leading the group at No. 5.

“While we improved in a few areas, many of the indicators in this report reflect troubling trends and show that Michigan kids are not given the same advantages when compared with other children in the region,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Human Services. “What’s worse is that most of the indicators are moving in the wrong direction.”

Michigan ranks in the bottom half of states in three of four general domains and on 10 out of 16 indicators. It is among the 10 worst states when it comes to the percent of children (14 percent) living in high-poverty areas and for children living in families where no parent has a full-time, year-round job (37 percent).

Among the warning signs is the percent of fourth-graders who are not proficient in reading. Michigan ranked 33rd among the states with 69 percent of state fourth-graders scoring below proficient on a national test in 2011. In 2005, Michigan ranked 25th.

“Reading is so critical. We know this is a strong predictor of future success. Yet the Michigan Legislature has cut funding by $470 per student over the past two years, putting us into a race to the bottom instead of a race to the top,” said Michigan League for Human Services President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. “We’re losing ground compared with other states on this very, very critical measure.”

Michigan’s best ranking — and the only one putting it into the 10 best states — was 4th for percent of children without health insurance. In Michigan, there are 95,000 children, or 4 percent of all children, without health insurance. More than 40 percent of all insured children are covered by Medicaid as the rate of employer-sponsored benefits declined.

“This shows the need for public structures to keep kids healthy during difficult economic times. The system maintained access to care for children,” Zehnder-Merrell said.

More in Michigan lost employer-sponsored health insurance over the past decade than in any other state except California, but government-sponsored health insurance covered the gap. The national Affordable Care Act is set to improve children’s access to health care by mandating improved rates for doctor visits.

Michigan has ranked 30th among the states in the past two KIDS COUNT reports. This year’s KIDS COUNT Data Book (23rd edition) includes a new index that increased from 10 to 16 more robust indicators, which will better serve the needs of the decision makers and advocates. The new index offers a more detailed portrait of how U.S. children are faring and reflects the advances in child development research since the first Data Book in 1990. As a result, this year’s report  cannot be compared with previous years.

Michigan’s ranking among the states:


Health  (Domain ranking is 22nd)  Children without health insurance: 4th,  Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs: 25th, Low birthweight babies: 29th, Child and teen death rate: 26th

Family and community (Domain ranking is 29th)  Children living in high-poverty areas: 43rd,  Children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma: 13th,  Children in single-parent families: 26th,  Teen birth rate: 18th

Economic well-being (Domain ranking is 36th) Children in households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing: 31st,  Children in poverty: 34th, Teens not attending school and not working: 25th, Children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment: 43rd

Education (Domain ranking is 33rd) Children ages 3 to 4 not attending preschool: 24th, Fourth-graders who scored not proficient in reading: 33rd, Eighth-graders who scored below proficient math: 34th, High school students not graduating on time: 28th

The KIDS COUNT Data Book with state-by-state rankings and supplemental data launches is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org,

Follow the Annie E. Casey Foundation on this issue on Twitter @aeckidscount and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KIDSCOUNT.