Report ranks La. poorly in child well-being

Louisiana ranks among the worst states in the nation when it comes to the well-being of its children, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday.

Louisiana is 47th among states and the District of Columbia in the 25th edition of the book.

Most of the state’s poor showing relates to children living in poverty and in single-parent homes, where the situation got worse than in prior reports.

In its new data book, the foundation ranks Louisiana in the cellar with Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.

“Louisiana’s ranking of 47th reveals that we still have a long way to go if we want Louisiana children to have the same chance to thrive as their peers in other states,” said Anthony Recasner, chief executive officer of the New Orleans-based Agenda for Children.

The report shows Louisiana has made some progress, including having one of the country’s lowest rates of uninsured children at 5 percent and ranking eighth in terms of the proportion of children who attend pre-school.

But Louisiana also saw a 15 percent increase in the number of children living in single-parent families, up from 33 percent to 48 percent between 1990 and 2012.

Only New Mexico had a larger increase, the report said.

And, more than one-third — 36 percent — of Louisiana children live in families where no parent has year-round, full-time employment. That rate is 5 percent higher than the national average.

In addition, Louisiana’s teen birth rate remains above the national rate of 29 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. It ranks 44th nationally.

“If Louisiana had the same teen birth rate as New Hampshire — the best-ranked state — just 2,099 Louisiana babies would have been born to teen mothers in Louisiana in 2012, compared to the 6,458 who were actually born to teen mothers that year,” the release said.

The Kids Count Data Book features the latest statistics on child well-being using 16 indicators across four different areas: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

For instance, nationally, 23 percent of children live in poverty, 66 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading and 19 percent of high schoolers are not graduating on time. In Louisiana, 28 percent of children live in poverty, 77 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading and 28 percent of high schoolers are not graduating on time.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore, is a private charitable organization dedicated to helping build better futures for disadvantaged children in the U.S.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.