Iowa moved up two spots in a ranking of states and their children's well-being, going from fifth to third, according to a recent report from KIDS COUNT.
The report, funded by the Annie C. Kasey Foundation, looks at economic, health, educational and community factors to create its ranking. The report relies on information gathered in 2017.
In addition to its overall third place ranking, Iowa ranked second in economic well-being, seventh in education, eighth in health and eighth in family and community.
The state has improved in economic well-being since 2016, moving from the fourth spot to second. Iowa saw a decrease in the number of children living in poverty, from 22 percent to 15 percent between 2016 and 2017, as well as a decrease in the number of children whose parents lack secure employment and those living with high housing costs. Iowa also saw a slight rise in the number of teens neither in school nor working, increasing from four percent to five percent.
Despite this decrease in children’s poverty, some say there is still cause for concern.
“It’s better than the U.S. average, but that still translates to 88,000 kids in poverty,” said Anne Discher, executive director for the Child and Family Policy Center in Iowa. “Yes, we do better than the nation as a whole, but we need to have a conversation in Iowa if that’s an acceptable rate.”
The state remained stagnant in its overall rank for children’s education, although it saw a slight decline in one of the subcategories. The number of children ages three to four not in pre-school rose from 53 percent to 54 percent. The remaining subcategories did not change.
The state also held its eighth-place rank for both the health category and the family and community category. In the health category, Iowa saw a slight increase in the number of child and teen deaths, moving from 25 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 to 27 death per 100,000 in 2017. Iowa also saw a slight decrease in the number of teen births, dropping from 17 births per 1,000 in 2016 to 16 births per 1,000 in 2017.
Discher credits this drop in teen births to policies that encourage access to long-term birth control.
“You can track that back to really a number of policies,” Discher said.