FILE - Kids playing in a park

Minnesota ranked fourth best among states for overall child well-being, improving in the areas of economic well-being and education from the previous year, according to the 30th edition of the Kids Count Data Book, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2019 Kids Count Data Book produces a comprehensive overview of child well-being in the U.S., this year pointing to areas of improvement in children’s lives nationally – including access to health care, decreased rates of teen childbearing and increased rates of high school graduation.

More Minnesota seniors than ever before graduated in 2018, with 55,869 students – 83.2 percent of the graduating class overall, the state’s highest graduation rate on record, according to the state Department of Education.

Additionally, 3,641 students from earlier classes also earned their diplomas in 2018, graduating between five to seven years after beginning high school.

“While Minnesota has consistently ranked toward the top compared to other states, when we disaggregate the data by race and ethnicity, we find our state has some of the most pronounced disparities in outcomes for the children,” Bharti Wahi, executive director of Children’s Defense Fund Minnesota, said in a statement. “In order build a strong state and build for a strong future, we must address these disparities as our state continues to grow in racial and ethnic diversity.”

The 2019 Legislature passed education reforms to help narrow the gap, including improving compliance issues with federally regulated Child Care Assistance Program, allocated $4 million over four years to create the Community Solutions Grant Program to help disadvantaged children, increased the Minnesota Family Investment Program cash grant; expanded the Working Family Tax Credit, among others. Minnesota also received a $4.7 million federal grant towards early learning for children and families.

Based on 2017 data, the Kids Count report analyzes 16 indicators across four key areas (health, education, economic well-being and family and community) to assess the overall score of children’s well-being.

In health, Minnesota ranked sixth. The percentage of children covered by health insurance is among the highest in the nation, the report states, although sharp disparities exist for Latino and American Indian children. Roughly 47,000 children statewide remain uninsured, yet many of them are eligible for a Minnesota Health Care Program.

Minnesota ranked tenth best in education. Only 46 percent of children ages three and four attend preschool, with increased state investment in recent years improving access, the report states.

In economic well-being, Minnesota families saw a 20 percent decrease in the percentage of children living in poverty compared to 2010. Programs like SNAP and Medical Assistance helped working families living in poverty and continue to help the roughly 12 percent of children still living in poverty in the state, according to the report.

Minnesota's overall poverty rate was 10.5 percent in 2017, slightly down from 2016 but higher than 2015’s 10.2 percent poverty rate, according to state data. Roughly 169,040 children under age 18 lived with families who reported incomes below the official poverty threshold ($24,600 for a family of four in 2017).

Poverty rates are highest among Black (32 percent), American Indian (31 percent) and Hispanic (21 percent) residents, which are roughly three to four times greater than that of Non-Hispanic Whites (7.5 percent).

Minnesota ranked sixth in family and community with Minnesota posting its lowest teen birthrate since 2010 (12 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19).