The data released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book, ranked Alaska 30th in terms of overall child well-being. For the first time the data book includes an overall index of child well-being for each state; the index is comprised of four categories: health, education, family and community, and economic well-being. These categories illustrate new knowledge about child-development and reflect the key domains in children’s lives. Each category has four indicators that use the most current data available.
- Health: Alaska is ranked 35th in health based on the four indicators in the new health index. Alaska has been and remains among the states having the fewest low-birthweight babies in the nation; by 2010 the number of children without health insurance declined by eight percent; and by 2009 teens abusing alcohol or drugs declined by 22 percent from 2006 levels. While child and teen deaths declined in 2009, Alaska’s mortality rates remain among the highest in the nation.
- Education: Alaska ranked 41st in the Data Book’s education category. In 2009, 27 percent of Alaska’s high school students didn’t graduate on time. Among fourth-grade students, 74 percent were not proficient in reading and 65 percent of eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math in 2011. These numbers are worrisome since they show many of Alaska’s children are growing up with educational risk factors that make it less likely they will be able to compete and thrive in the global economy they will inherit.
- Economic well-being: Even though it appears that few children in Alaska live below the poverty threshold, this measure doesn’t take into account the higher costs of living in Alaska especially in the more rural communities. In 2010, the percentage of children living in poverty in Alaska was 13 percent; it was 22 percent for the nation as a whole. Alaska is ranked 22nd in economic well-being. Economic security is critical for all children not only because of day-to-day challenges, but also because growing up in poverty is associated with many negative outcomes.
In addition to the indicators in the Data Book, the KIDS COUNT Data Center provides easy, online access to hundreds of indicators by state, county, city and school district. It serves as a comprehensive source of information for policymakers, advocates, members of the media and others concerned with addressing the needs of children, families and communities. The data center also includes information for Alaska’s seven regions. By visiting the Data Center, users can download the complete data book, and create interactive maps and graphs.
Kids Count Alaska is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which sponsors Kids Count programs in all 50 states as well as in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kids Count Alaska is located in the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. In addition to the measures discussed above, the Kids Count Alaska Data Book includes additional measures specifically for Alaska and many are available by region. You can view and download all Alaska data books at http://kidscount.alaska.edu.