North Dakota Kids Count data looks good
Kids Count, the nation’s gold standard for rating the quality of the lives of children, finds conditions pretty good for kids in Minnesota and North Dakota. The annual assessment by the Annie E. Casey Foundation rates Minnesota fifth overall and North Dakota sixth. The North Dakota ranking is better than in the past; Minnesota consistently has been in the top five.
The foundation uses several criteria in its rankings, including economic well-being, education, health and family/community. Among those categories, North Dakota’s only first-place rank was economic well-being. Given the state’s energy and ag-fueled economy, it’s no surprise children are benefiting.
Repeating its success over many years, Minnesota is among the best states for education of children. On the other hand, wealthy North Dakota is still playing education catchup, with its relatively poor 19th rating. The state can proudly boast of the nation’s strongest economy, but when that strength does not translate into the best possible environment for childhood education, the boasting should be tempered.
Both states ranked high (fourth for North Dakota, fifth for Minnesota) in the family/community category. The focus there is on such areas as single-parent families, teen birth rates, parents’ education levels and children living in high poverty areas. The indicators for those factors are relatively good in both states, thus their high national standing.
Both states have work to do in specific areas. North Dakota’s education ranking was an unacceptable 19th, mostly because 64 percent of children do not attend preschool, 66 percent of fourth-graders were not proficient in reading, and 59 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math.
Both states did not do especially well in the health category. In North Dakota, the low 23rd standing was a result in part of a relatively high rate of child and teen deaths, and a relatively high rate of teen births. Minnesota ranked 17th because of similar statistics in those categories.
There is cause for applause but also cause for concern. Minnesota continues a long-standing record of being one of the best states for child well-being. North Dakota has made significant strides in the right direction, but by virtue of the state’s unprecedented wealth, should be doing more.