Thursday, February 11, 2016

Study: N.J. 5th, Pa. 17th in child well-being

States make progress in child health, education; economic troubles persist

A new study ranks New Jersey fifth in the country in child well-being, while Pennsylvania is ranked 17th. (File photo)
A new study ranks New Jersey fifth in the country in child well-being, while Pennsylvania is ranked 17th. (File photo)
Story Highlights
  • A new study ranks New Jersey fifth in the country in child well-being, while Pennsylvania is ranked 17th.
  • In both states, all indicators of economic well-being worsened or remained unchanged.
  • Nearly all markers of well-being in health and education improved in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

A new study the number of children living in poverty in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is climbing, even as the states are making progress in children's health and education.

The report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation says New Jersey is ranked fifth in the country for overall child well-being, while Pennsylvania ranks 17th.

In recent years, nearly all markers of well-being in health and education that the report measured -- such as low-birthweight babies, child and teen deaths, high school graduation rates and children attending preschool -- improved in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

But in both states, all indicators of economic well-being -- child poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, households with a high housing-cost burden and the number of teens not in school nor working -- worsened or remained unchanged.

Those trends also held for the nation as a whole.

"The progress we're seeing in child health and education is encouraging, but the economic data clearly speak to the considerable challenges we still face," Laura Speer, the foundation's associate director for policy reform and data, said in a statement.

In Pennsylvania, the percent of children in poverty climbed from 17 percent to 20 percent between 2005 and 2011. In New Jersey, that number rose from 12 percent to 15 percent.

The percent of children whose parents lack stable jobs rose from 27 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2011 in Pennsylvania and from 23 percent to 27 percent in New Jersey. And 48 percent of New Jersey children live in a household spending more than 30 percent of its income on housing, up from 43 percent in 2005.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey ranked 17th and 18th, respectively, for economic well-being.

But the states are making progress on other fronts, the report found. In education, where Pennsylvania ranks eighth and New Jersey ranks second, the percent of eighth-graders not proficient in math dropped from 64 percent in 2005 to 53 percent in 2011 in New Jersey and from 69 percent to 61 percent in Pennsylvania. And the percent of children not attending preschool declined from 40 percent in 2005-2007 to 38 percent in 2009-2011 in New Jersey and 55 percent to 51 percent in Pennsylvania.

The number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 youths dropped from 33 in 2005 to 25 in 2010 in Pennsylvania and 22 to 18 in New Jersey.

Like the country overall, the percent of children living in single-parent families rose, increasing from 31 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2011 in Pennsylvania and rising from 28 percent to 31 percent in New Jersey.

Both Pennsylvania's and New Jersey's overall rankings dropped from last year. In 2012, Pennsylvania was ranked 14th and New Jersey ranked fourth.

The drop in Pennsylvania -- one of just five states to slip three or more spots -- is a result of continuing economic troubles and a lack of investment in programs for children, the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says.

"Failing to invest in children during difficult fiscal times has very definite long-term consequences -- and that's what these rankings show us," Joan Benso, the organization's chief executive, said in a statement.

In some instances, like the percentage of children lacking health insurance, Pennsylvania's statistics didn't significantly worsen, but other states made progress, allowing them to jump ahead in the rankings, she said.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter. staff
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