NJ the best state to raise kids; Pa. 11th

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If you're looking for a great place to raise your kids, look no further than the good ol' Garden State. In a recent study by the Foundation for Child Development, New Jersey is the state with the highest level of child well-being. Pennsylvania was just shy of the top 10 coming in at 11th.

The report was a combination of The KIDS COUNT Project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Child Well Being Index (CWI) by the Foundation for Child Development using data from 2003 and 2007. Those years were selected because that is when the National Survey of Children's Health data have been collected and it's the only state-level source of the needed data.

Generally, states with a larger share of their population living in big cities have better outcomes for kids. The authors of the report believe this is probably due to the relatively poor outcomes of children in rural areas and that many states in the Northeast, which tend to have good child outcomes, also have a highly urban population.

So what makes a state the best? The CWI looks at 25 indicators in 7 dimensions.

  1. Family Economic Well-Being: Considered families with children in poverty, children without secure parental employment, median income for families with children and children without insurance coverage.
    • New Jersey ranked 7; Pennsylvania ranked 23
  2. Health: Took into account infant mortality rate, low birthweight, mortality rate for ages 1-19, children not in very good or excellent health, children with functional limitations, and children/teens who are overweight or obese.
    • NJ ranked 11; Pa. ranked 27
  3. Safe/Risky Behavior: Teen birth rate, cigarette use in the past month for ages 12-17, binge alcohol drinking among youths aged 12-17, illicit drug use other than marijuana for ages 12-17.
    •  NJ ranked 6; Pa. ranked 12
  4. Education Attainment: Average reading and math scores for grades 4 and 8.
    • NJ ranked 3; Pa. ranked 11
  5. Community Engagement: Young adults without a high school diploma, teens not in school and not working, percent of 3 and 4 year olds not enrolled in school, young adults without a B.A. degree, and young adults who did not vote in  election.
    • NJ ranked 6: Pa. ranked 10
  6. Social Relationships: Children in single parent families and children who have moved in the last year.
    • NJ ranked 1; Pa. ranked 9
  7. Emotional/Spiritual Well-Being: Suicide rate for ages 10-19 and children without weekly religious attendance aged 0-17.
    •  NJ ranked 16; Pa. ranked 23

New Jersey was in the top 10 of five in these categories. It was also noted for its support for public education,which is by far the largest program for children, according to the report. Per pupil expenditures ranged from $6,951 in Idaho to $17,620 in New Jersey in 2007.

The report also attemps to answer which states improved child's well-being between 2003 and 2007 as well as the demographic factors, economic conditions, and public policies associated with states that exhibit higher levels of child well-being. Pennsylvania was one of the most improved states with gains in the categories of family economic well being and education attainment.

Policies that help to improve child well being were related to state and local tax rates, level of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, per pupil expenditures on elementary and secondary education, and access to public medical insurance programs.

Read the full report here.

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