The good and bad of child well-being in New Jersey
New Jersey still lands among the top 10 states nationwide for child well-being, according to the 31st Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The child-focused nonprofit examined 16 indicators across four domains — health, education, economic well-being, and family and community — and determined New Jersey ranks eighth among the states, based on data from 2018 and 2019.
The state ranked fifth in last year's report, but the foundation used different methodology for the 2020 rankings.
New Jersey had its worst showing in the 2020 report in the domain of economic well-being.
"Some of that is because New Jersey is a high cost of living state," said Alana Vega, Kids Count coordinator at Advocates for Children of New Jersey. "Thirty-six percent of children live in households with a high housing cost burden. That means they spend more than 30% of household income towards housing costs."
Showing no change between 2010 and 2018, New Jersey's child poverty rate was recorded for this report at 14%.
The Garden State ranked 15th in health — one reason: a third of New Jersey's teenagers are overweight or obese — and 14th in the family and community domain. The state saw a dramatic decline in births to teens aged 15 to 17, and an estimated 8% of New Jersey children live in an area of "concentrated poverty," according to the report.
But the state ranked No. 1 overall in education, continuing its streak of being at or near the top for the last several years. Vega said New Jersey boasts a relatively low percentage of young children who are not enrolled in preschool. Only 9% of students did not graduate on time from high school, compared to 15% of students nationwide.
Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of ACNJ, said while this year's report does not reflect the current reality of the impact of COVID-19, the data provide a glimpse at those who are most at-risk for the adverse effects of the pandemic.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.