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Study: ND a great place to grow up

FARGO — North Dakota ranks high in a national study of child well-being released today.

The state ranked sixth overall in the 25th annual Kids Count study released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Statistics from 16 areas tied to economics, education, health, and family and community are used to compile the rankings.

North Dakota was No. 1 in the nation in economic well-being. It was fourth in family and community indicators, 19th in education and 23rd in health.

Karen Olson, program director for North Dakota Kids Count at North Dakota State University, said the state improved in all four health measures and three of four education measures.

North Dakota’s vibrant economy also helped the state post the lowest child poverty rate in the United States, Olson said. But that rate hasn’t changed since 2000, she said. That means 20,000 children live in conditions where their basic needs aren’t met.

About half of the state’s American Indian children live in poverty, Olson said.

North Dakota is tied for the fourth-worst ranking in the U.S. in preschool enrollment, Olson said. Investing in early childhood education is a difference-maker for high-risk kids, she said.

“We really can’t afford to lose one child to poverty, poor health or crime,” she said.

Here’s how the 2014 rankings were compiled and how North Dakota fared.

The economic well-being ranking is determined by percentages of children living in poverty; children whose parents lack secure jobs; children living in households where the cost of housing is high; and teens not in school and not working. Using 2012 data:

  • 13 percent of children live in poverty.
  • 19 percent of children have parents without secure jobs and 16 percent live in households with high housing costs.
  • 5 percent of North Dakota teens are not in school and not working.

Education rankings are determined by percentages of children not attending preschool; fourth-graders not proficient in reading; eighth-graders not proficient in math; and high school students not graduating on time.

  • Between 2010 and 2012, 64 percent percent of children did not attend preschool in North Dakota.
  • 66 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading in North Dakota in 2013.
  • 59 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math.
  • In North Dakota in the 2011-12 school year, 9 percent of high school students did not graduate on time.

Health rankings are determined by the percentage of low-birth weight babies; children without health insurance; child and teen deaths per 100,000; and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.

  • In North Dakota, 6.2 percent of children born in 2012 were considered low-birthweight. 
  • 7 percent of children had no health insurance.
  • In 2010, there were 34 child and teen deaths per 100,000.
  • In North Dakota in 2011-12, about 6 percent of teens abused drugs or alcohol. 

Family and community rankings include percentages of children in single-parent families; children in families where the head of the household does not have a high school diploma; children living in high-poverty areas; and teen births per 1,000.

  • In 2012, 28 percent of children lived in single-parent families.
  • 5 percent of children lived in families where the head of the household did not have a high school diploma. 
  • From 2008 to 2012, 7 percent of children lived in high-poverty areas. 
  • In 2012, North Dakota recorded 26 teen births per 100,000. In North Dakota.

South Dakota was ranked 17th overall in child well-being in the nation. It was second in indicators for economic well-being, 24th in family and community, 32nd in education and 33rd in health.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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