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Is NJ a good place to raise children?

A new report finds child well-being is improving in many areas of New Jersey, but more kids are also living in poverty.

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The latest “Kids Count” report ranks the Garden State, overall, eighth-best in the country for children.

The survey finds New Jersey does quite well when it comes to education.

“We rank second in the country for the four education indicators, I think, in great part because of our state-funded, high-quality preschool program,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

She said the report indicates “we have a significant percentage of children attending preschool, and it also shows results in improvements in fourth-grade reading.”

The survey also gives the Garden State relatively high marks, 19th in the nation, for health.

“This reflects an investment and a commitment we’ve made to family care, the state child health insurance program,” Zalkind said. “We’ve decreased the number of children without health insurance.”

The news isn’t all good, however. The report ranks New Jersey 16th in the nation when it comes to the economic well-being of children — and moreover, 45th in its percentage of children living in households where more than the recommended amount of income is spent on housing.

“We have more kids living in poverty, and a higher percentage of children living in households with high housing costs, and a higher percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment,” Zalkind said. “I think that speaks to the continued struggle that low-income families have in recovering from the economic downturn.”

She said while New Jersey does remain one of the top states in the country, “I think what we’ve seen is that other states are now beginning to outpace us, and maybe staying the same is not enough. The report suggests we need to refocus and invest more in those things we know work, like preschool and health insurance.”

Zalkind said “the economic issues are issues that need to be looked at in a more organized way.”

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