Ga. making progress in health of children, but economic welfare lags

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The overall health and education of children has improved across Georgia over the last 10 years, but their economic well-being has worsened.

Those were among the findings of the 25th anniversary report from the Kids Count data book, released Tuesday.

The report said Georgia ranks No. 42 in the country in child welfare, an improvement of one spot from last year’s report and six places better than the state’s ranking in the inaugural list.

Here are some of the findings from the 2014 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation:

• In 2005, 74 percent of fourth-graders in Georgia were unable to read on grade level. By 2013, that rate had improved to 66 percent.

• During that period, eighth-grade math proficiency and high-school graduation rates also improved significantly statewide.

• The rate of children not enrolled in preschool has remained at 52 percent since 2005.

• Georgia also has improved in all four of Kids Count’s health indicators. Rates of low-birth-weight babies (9.3 percent), children without health insurance (9 percent), child and teen deaths (30 deaths per 100,000), and teens who abuse drugs or alcohol (6 percent) have all improved over the past decade.

• In the area of family and community well-being, Georgia saw a dramatic decline in teen birth rates (from 53 births per 100,000 to 34 per 100,000), as well as a decrease in children living in households that lack a high-school diploma.

• In 1990, 63 percent of children in Georgia ages 3 and 4 were not attending preschool. By 2011, that number had fallen to 50 percent, bringing Georgia up to 24th in the nation for that indicator.

• More than a quarter of Georgia’s children lived in households that lacked a high school diploma 25 years ago. By 2012, that indicator had improved to just 15 percent of households.

• More children are living in single-parent families and in high-poverty areas since 2005 and 2000, respectively. The rate of children living in poverty has surged to 27 percent — 672,000 children — a 35 percent increase since 2005. The number of homes where parents lack secure employment has increased as well, as did the number of children living in households with a high housing cost burden.

• The 25-year data also showed persistent struggles in Georgia. The percentage of high school students not graduating on time was the same in 1990 as it was in 2012. The number of children living in households without full-time, year-round employment, and the number of teens not in school and not working both have increased by 3 percent since 1990.

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Georgia Family Connection is a statewide network with a Collaborative in all 159 counties.

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