Alabama ranks 45th in the country overall for child well-being, according to the 2023 Kids Count Data Book issued this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That’s one slot higher than last year. But the “improvement” says less about progress in Alabama than it does about losses in other states, according to the report.
“While Alabama may be moving up in the rankings compared to other states measured in this year’s Kids Count Data Book, we are at best struggling to hold the line,” said Rhonda Mann, Voices for Alabama’s Children’s executive director. “Overall, the well-being of children in Alabama stayed the same or worsened in 11 of the 16 indicators that the Casey Foundation tracks. Still, this stands in contrast to what children in many other states have experienced over the last few years, especially as it relates to education outcomes. State leaders should be proud of what they implemented to mitigate COVID disruptions, but as this report suggests, we still have a lot of work left to do.”
The 16 indicators the report measures are grouped into four categories.
Alabama ranks 39th in education, 42nd in economic well-being, 45th in health and 45th in family and community. That puts it in the bottom 12 states in each category, placing it among the “worst” states in each.
Among Alabama fourth graders, 72% were not proficient in reading in 2022, the same percentage as in 2019. Among eighth graders, 81% were not proficient in math, a tick worse than in 2019, when 79% were not proficient.
In another key education indicator, 9% of Alabama’s students did not graduate on time, which is less than the 14% nationwide.
In the economic well-being category, 22% of Alabama children live in poverty, compared to 17% nationwide.
In the health category, 44 of every 100,000 Alabama children die before growing out of their teens. Nationally, that figure is 30 of every 100,000 children.
In the family and community category, 11% of Alabama children live in high-poverty areas.
“It is no surprise that children in Alabama, and across the country, struggled throughout the COVID pandemic,” Mann said in a statement. “Now that we are beginning to zero in on the areas where child well-being endured its biggest setbacks, we are better positioned to understand where to invest to reverse course. Child care is one of the most pressing areas needing help.”
Mann said, 10% of children under age 6 in Alabama lived in families in which someone quit, changed or refused a job because of problems with child care.
Nationally, the foundation’s study shows, the U.S. economy is losing $122 billion a year because parents’ challenges finding safe, affordable child care caused them to miss work.