A new report finds New Jersey is one of the top states in the nation when it comes to overall child well-being.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 30th annual Kids Count report ranks the Garden State as fifth-best in the country.

“We look at data across four areas — health, education, economic well-being and family and community indicators," Lisa Hamilton, the president and CEO of the foundation, said.

 

She said New Jersey ranks second-best in the country for education.

“That means it’s got some of the best indicators in areas like the number of young children who are in school, getting an early childhood education," Hamilton said.

She said the ranking also means high numbers of fourth-graders who are proficient in reading, and eighth-graders who are proficient in math. New Jersey also scores well for high-schoolers graduating on time.

The report gives New Jersey very strong health indicators, including for the numbers of children who have health insurance, or children who are born healthy and not at a low birth weight.

The report ranks New Jersey third in the nation for the health of children. Hamilton said this ranking is based on the number of child and teen deaths per 100,000, and the number of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.

She said New Jersey needs to make improvements in the area of economic well-being.

“New Jersey has about 14% of its children who are growing up in poverty, and 24% of children whose parents lack secure employment," Hamilton said.

The report ranks New Jersey 28th for the economic well-being of children, which takes into account the percentage of children in poverty, kids whose parents are struggling to find secure jobs, kids living in households with high housing cost burdens, and teens not in school and not working.

She said a lot of lower income Jersey residents face a disproportionately high housing cost burden.

“Those families are spending more than 30% of their income on housing," she said. "37% of children are living in these kinds of households.”

Overall, the Garden State is ranked 13th for family and community indicators, which includes the percentage of low-birth weight babies, children without health insurance, child and teen deaths per 100,000 and the percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.

She added with the Census coming up next year it’s important for New Jersey and all states to “make sure that their children are counted, because that’s going to make sure those states get the federal resources that they’re entitled to in order to invest in children’s programs.”

New Hampshire has the highest overall rating in the report, while New Mexico is ranked lowest.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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