Pennsylvania drops in rank for child well-being


According to data released this month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Pennsylvania has dropped in national ranking for overall child well-being.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso said Pennsylvania's drop from 16th to 17th place compared to other states is "a clear sign we need to pick up the pace in prioritizing investments in our children."

And the drop in state ranking isn't the only cause for concern.

"We've languished in the middle-teens for the years...which basically implies that we've been stagnating," said Mike Race, also with the partnership. "This is particularly relevant because lawmakers are right now trying to decide on a spending plan."

The study utilizes the most recent, consistent annual data and examines it over a five-years span — this study uses information state data from 2013 — and breaks it into four categories.

Economic: This portion of the study examined data related to housing costs, child poverty, family employment, and whether teens not attending school have jobs. Overall, Pennsylvania ranked nineteenth in economic well-being, and saw improvement in only one of the four sections examined: Children living in households with a high housing cost burden which showed a two percent decrease — for a total 32 percent — of children living in homes with high burden cost.

Nineteen percent of children statewide are living in poverty, a two percent increase over the last five years.

"While this is slightly better than the national rate of children in poverty, it's hardly an acceptable statistic," Benso said. "It's especially troubling to see that child poverty in the commonwealth has worsened since 2008, when we were in the depths of the recession."

In York County, 36 percent of children are living at 200 percent or below the poverty level, an increase of seven percent, according to the most recent data collected by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

The national poverty threshold is an income of $24,250 for a family of four.

Statewide, 30 percent of children live with parents who do not have secure employment, which marks an increase of two percent.

In York County, 25 percent of two-parent families report both parents are fully employed, while only one percent of families have neither parents working.

Among those teenagers who are no longer in school, only six percent are not working, a number which has remained consistent.

Education: Pennsylvania in educational well-being, remained ranked at seventh while Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Hampshire took the top spots.

The section researched reading and math proficiency, pre-K opportunities, and graduation time.

In 2013, 60 percent of fourth-graders were not proficient in reading and 58 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math; reading proficiency showed no change while math improved by four percent statewide.

Both statewide and nationally, the number of children attending pre-school has decreased. In Pennsylvania 157,000 students and 4.4 million children across the country do not attend pre-K.

In York the numbers have been consistent: Approximately 90 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-K.

The numbers of those graduating on-time have improved statewide; nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvania students graduate on time which is also true for York County.

Health: Pennsylvania — moving from 25th to 21st — showed improvement in each of the four areas of study: children who lack health insurance; child and teen death rates; low-birth weight babies; and alcohol or drug abuse among teens.

The percentage of children without insurance in Pennsylvania dropped from six to five percent. In York County, only four percent of children are without insurance, but that number has slowly been increasing over the past few years.

Both nationally and statewide, only eight percent of babies born are underweight, a number which has also been declining in York — 7.6 percent of babies last year were underweight — since 2008.

Statewide in 2013 there were 630 child and teen deaths and in York in 2012 there were 35 deaths in children from 0 to 19 years old, a marked decrease from the year prior which noted 54 juvenile deaths.

Community: The Family and Community domain examined the percentage of single-parent households, education in heads of households, and teen birth rates, and was Pennsylvania's lowest ranking at 25th.

Statewide, 901,000 children were living in single-parent families and York County also showed a slight increase in single-parent families.

The percentage of children in families where the household head does not have a high school diploma dropped from 11 to 10 percent while the percentage in York remained consistent at 12 percent.

Teen pregnancy statewide also decreased and York County, this category has made significant gains. In 2012, there were only 228 births to women between 13-18 years old while in 2011, there were 400, according Department of Health data.

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