Early Education

Mississippi improves in child well-being rankings, but still has room to improve

Decrease in child poverty, parental unemployment bumps Mississippi up slightly in national rankings

Mississippi has made gains on economic, education, health and community factors that indicate children’s well-being but the state still places near the bottom in the nation overall, according to a new annual report by the Annie E. Casey foundation.

The state improved in nearly all of the 16 indicators examined in the report, and moved up in the overall rankings from 50th in 2017 to 48th this year. Here are some of the state’s most notable improvements:

  • Children in poverty: The number of children living in poverty decreased from 33 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2016. Nationwide, 19 percent of children live in poverty.
  • Parental employment: The number of children with parents who lacked secure employment decreased by 5 percentage points.
  • Disconnected teens: The state saw a 4-percentage- point drop in the number of teens who are not in school and not working, from 13 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2016.
  • Eighth-grade math proficiency: The percent of 8th-grade students who are not proficient in math decreased greatly, from 85 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2017. Nationwide, this percentage remained steady at 67 percent.
  • On-time graduation: The percent of high school students who fail to graduate on time dropped from 25 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 18 percent in 2015-16.
  • Teen births: The number of teen births per 1,000 dropped from 55 in 2010 to 33 in 2016.

Despite these improvements, the state’s performance in some areas declined, and it remains far below the national average on many indicators.

The percent of 3- and 4-year-old children who are not in school increased from 47 percent during 2009 and 2011 to 48 percent between 2014 and 2016. (Mississippi’s public pre-K program is one of the highest-quality in the nation, but also one of the newest; the state served just 1 percent of 3-year-olds and 4 percent of 4-year-olds in 2016. Nationwide, states serve an average of 5 percent of 3-year-olds and 32 percent of 4-year-olds.) The number of child and teen deaths also increased, from 38 per 100,000 in 2010 to 40 per 100,000 in 2016. The national average is 26.

Linda H. Southward, Mississippi KIDS COUNT Co-Director, said in a statement that the state’s gains reflect the continued benefit to children from federally funded programs and increasing parental employment.”

However, Southward said more investment is needed to see improvement. “At the same time, we know that many children, particularly children of color, continue to live in poverty and suffer from a lack of resources. The research is clear that when states enact an earned income tax credit, the percentage of children and families living in poverty decreases. This policy, coupled with investments in high-quality early care and education programs, would set the stage for Mississippi to continue to improve its overall rankings on child well-being.”

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Jackie Mader

Jackie Mader is multimedia editor. She has covered preK-12 education and teacher preparation nationwide, with a focus on the rural south. Her work has appeared… See Archive

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