Nearly half of all Minnesota children under 6 years old are living with potential risk factors that could negatively impact healthy development, the Amherst Wilder Foundation says.
Fifteen Minnesota counties are labeled high-risk in the foundation's first-of-its-kind report, which takes a county-by-county look at the conditions and risks the youngest and most vulnerable Minnesotans face, and the coverage of publicly funded services to meet their needs.
Risk indicators include:
- Higher-than-average rates of parental unemployment
- Poverty rates; teen birth rates
- Lower-than-average rates of prenatal care
- Childhood immunization rates
- The number of children in foster care
Using these factors (and others), the Wilder Foundation ranked the state's 87 counties, finding nearly 200,000 of the estimated 436,000 children 5 and younger live in counties where the potential risks to healthy development are either "moderate-to-high" or "high" (see map below).
Looking at the county-by-county data, researchers found there are pockets of disparities throughout the state, particularly in counties with large minority populations. Mahnomen, Becker, Beltrami and Cass counties have the most high-risk indicators.
But counties labeled high-risk aren't exclusive to greater Minnesota. Ramsey County – the most racially diverse county in the metro area – is more similar to counties in greater Minnesota than the seven-county metro.
The report found that developmental risks are likely to rise throughout Minnesota – especially in the metro area – over the next decade or two unless there are efforts to improve early childhood education, health and family support programs, and rectify income inequality and racial inequities.
The report, which was discussed at an event Wednesday morning, is intended to be used to guide and inform policy and the allocation of resources, the foundation notes.