Report says MN is top state for kids' well-being – but racial disparities an issue


The No. 1 state in the nation for the well-being of a child is Minnesota. But not all the state's children – specifically, non-whites – are equally well off.

The 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released Tuesday morning, ranked all 50 states across a series of 16 indicators, and found Minnesota first overall in child well-being.

However, it's "obvious," the report press release says, that black and American Indian children in the state have a more difficult path upward than whites.

They're more likely to live in economically insecure families and neighborhoods. They're less likely to go to preschool. Their chances of meeting reading and math standards are lower. And the odds they graduate on time are lower.

Stephanie Hogenson, the research and policy director at Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota, said in a news release the state "cannot be content with a high ranking that masks chronic inequities for children of color in our state."

She continued: "We can't just keep doing what we've been doing because it's not ensuring success for all of our children."

One example: The report looked at data from 2013 and found there are 60,000 more children living in low-income families that year than in 2008. When breaking it down by race, black and American Indian children were three times as likely as whites to be in that situation; and Asian and Hispanic/Latino families twice as likely.

Minnesota still top overall

Yet despite this, the report's ranking system – which looks at factors tied to economic well-being, education, health, and family and community – put Minnesota on top. (Click here to read the full report.)

Minnesota ranked fifth for well-being, sixth for education, second in the health category, and fourth for family and community. (Click the image at right to see all the state rankings.)

According to the Star Tribune, Minnesota's high slot in the education and family categories aren't new. But a steep decline compared to previous years in the number of children who died – from auto accidents, homicides, cancer, and other causes – boosted the state to the top, the paper says.

Though the report doesn't discuss it, Minnesota is currently facing internal criticism for its child protection services. The system has been criticized for its responses to, and handling of, abuse cases.

Iowa measured just behind Minnesota at No. 4; North Dakota ranked seventh overall; Wisconsin came in at 13th; and South Dakota took 18th.

Nationally, the report found there were more children in poverty in 2013 (22 percent) than before the recession, despite data showing an improvement in child health and education.

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