Last week the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2014 Kids Count Data Book highlighting state trends in child well-being and celebrating their 25th edition of the book by going back to 1990 and looking at changes in America’s children since then. Typically, Nebraska fares quite well in the report with rankings near the top every year. This year our state ranked number 10, meaning that children in Nebraska have higher measures of well-being than 80% of states in the U.S. This appears to be great, as does our rankings in the economic well-being section – 5th in the country, until we break it down further and look at each indicator and the progress we have made as a state ensuring children’s economic well-being. When we do that we see that Nebraska has actually worsened in each of the 4 indicators. So, while we do well compared to the rest of the country, we did not do well in 2012 compared to ourselves in prior years. The chart below shows the differences in each indicator compared to a pre-recession year (2005) for children in poverty and children whose households have a high housing cost burden and 2008 for the other 2 indicators.
While these changes may not appear to be significant when looking at the actual numbers we see that 81,000 Nebraska kids were living in poverty in 2012, 104,000 children were living in families where their parents lacked secure employment, 122,000 were living in a home with a high cost burden, and 6,000 Nebraska teens were not in school and not working. These are big numbers and we must do better to ensure that all Nebraska kids have an equitable opportunity to thrive. There is much to be done to turn these trends around and Voices for Children is active in advocating for policies that will help do just that, like raising the minimum wage, promoting college savings programs, and being mindful of the family bottom line. In addition to economic well-being, the National Kids Count Data Book includes sections on education, health, and family and community. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we investigate each of these sections further and continue to blog about our policy work attempting to make Nebraska the best state in the nation to be a kid.