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Children and families in North Carolina have yet to recover from economic setbacks caused by the Great Recession, according to the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation on Monday.

The Data Book ranks North Carolina 35th in the nation for overall child well-being. In the report’s four subcategories, North Carolina falls in the middle of the pack for Education (27), and lags behind in Family and Community (36), Health (34) and Economic Well-Being (38).

North Carolina lost ground in all four measures of economic well-being:

  • Between 2005 and 2011, the percentage of children living in poverty increased for the third consecutive year. More than one in every four children—580,000—lived in poverty.
  • The percentage of children whose parents lacked secure employment grew by 21 percent. One in three children lives in a household with an unemployed parent.
  • The percentage of children living in families with a high housing cost burden topped 37 percent in 2011.
  • One in ten young people in North Carolina are disconnected—cutoff from both school and employment.

Climbing child poverty signals looming challenges for our children and our state. Growing up in poverty, the report asserts, is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development.  Poor children face stiffer odds for reaching their full potential than their peers. Studies show poor children are more likely to experience costly chronic health issues, lack access to healthy foods and earn lower wages as adults.

When children suffer we all bear the consequences through dimmer future prospects, fewer skilled workers and less vibrant local communities. The social, emotional and cognitive skills needed to thrive during adulthood are built during the earliest years of children’s lives. Adequate resources prepare children for healthy growth and development, without them children face barriers that reduce their access to opportunity and dampen their future outcomes

The Data Book does offer some encouraging news: strategic investments in programs that support children’s health and education have produced results over time. Between roughly 2005 and 2011, North Carolina experienced modest, long-term gains in education as fourth grade reading proficiency and eight grade math proficiency increased seven percent, and the share of high school students not graduating on time declined to 23 percent. In health, the percentage of uninsured children declined by 20 percent, the child and teen death rate improved (27 percent) and fewer teens reported abusing alcohol or drugs (7 percent)

The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book, and state-by-state rankings, are available online via the newly revamped KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org

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