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By Josh Bergeron

Salisbury Post

Rowan County’s youth suffered significantly following the 2008 recession, according to economic and education and health data released this week by the 2015 Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The foundation annually publishes the Kids Count Data Book, a compilation of indicators of child well-being for all states. The factors, combined, place North Carolina 35th in the National for child well-being. Individually, each factor for North Carolina ranks below average. Education is the highest rating — at 28 of 50 — for the state.

“The gap between states with the best and worst child well-being is stark — and North Carolina sits on the wrong side of that divide,” said Michelle Hughes, director of state advocacy group NC Child. “In order for our children to thrive and our state excel now and in the future, North Carolina needs to work on the fundamentals of health child development.”

The national results don’t rank individual counties, but paint a bleak picture for Rowan.

County statistics show Rowan improving in some areas, but still falling behind most neighboring counties from 2008 to 2012. The Salisbury Post used Cabarrus, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Stanly as neighboring counties for comparison.

Health indicators

One of the few indicators included in the data without a definitive negative or positive trend is teen pregnancies per 1,000 people. In fact, it’s largely the same.

Rowan’s number of teen pregnancies started at 38 per 1,000 in 2008. By 2012, the number was 35 per 1,000. Three of the five years, however, the rate was 38 per 1,000.

Compared to neighboring counties, Rowan compared most similarly with Forsyth County. Forsyth was lower than Rowan in three of five years, but stayed close.

Rowan’s largest number of teen pregnancies in the study was 42 per 1,000 in 2010. Forsyth’s largest number was 39 in 2010 and 2012.

Rowan only fared better than Mecklenburg County and Stanly County for the number of children uninsured. The study only included data from 2011, which showed Rowan with 8.2 percent of people 18 or younger without insurance.

Economic indicators

The number of Rowan County children in poverty has trended upward, according to the Kids Count statistics.

In 2008, the total number of Rowan children in poverty was 6,875 or about 21 percent of children. By 2012, the latest data available in the study, Rowan has 8,500 children in poverty or about 27 percent.

Throughout the years available in the study, Rowan’s number of children in poverty was higher than neighboring or nearby counties in percentage. In 2012, Forsyth surpassed Rowan for children in poverty. It was the only nearby county to do so in the study.

The number of children receiving supplemental security income also rose.

The number of children receiving supplemental security income is partially a result of total population. Therefore, Mecklenburg and Forsyth County have a larger number of children receiving supplemental security income in all years from 2008 to 2012.

Cabarrus County, however, is lower than Rowan in all but one year. In 2011, Rowan had 663 children receiving supplemental security income according to the data. Cabarrus had 667.

Education indicators

Rowan’s middling graduation rate results were bested by most nearby counties. However, Rowan’s graduation rate rose over the course of the five year stretch.

In 2008, Rowan’s graduation rate was 70.9 percent. It dipped to 66.3 percent in 2009, but rose from 2010 to 2012. It topped out at 81 percent in the available data.

The Kids Count data for Rowan’s graduation rate is most similar to data for Forsyth County. Forsyth bested Rowan in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but remained close.

Mecklenburg County fared worse than Rowan each year.

The bleak educational picture continued for average SAT test score results. ACT tests — another common test used for college entry — were not included.

Rowan’s average SAT scores in 2009 were 985 — lower than all but Stanly County. Average test results declined overall for Rowan to 949 by 2012.

The number of students receiving free and reduced lunch in Rowan was higher in percentage than every other nearby county for every year included in the Kids Count data.

Starting in 2008, 49.8 students received free or reduced lunch according to the data. That number steadily increased, reaching 62 percent of total students in 2012.

No other nearby county topped 60 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch.

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Source: Study: Rowan’s Youth Fell Behind Just After Recession Began in 2008.

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