2014′s Best and Worst States for Underprivileged Children
In an ideal world, children live carefree. They play with friends, eat nutritious food and receive a good education. They don’t worry about paying bills or searching for their next meal. They’re nurtured, protected and guided by caring adults who provide all their basic needs. Eventually, they become productive members of society. Such are fundamental rights, not privileges. And yet, the United States — one of the most powerful and prosperous countries in the world — has the second highest rate of relative child poverty among economically developed nations.
To put that in perspective, about a fifth, or 16.1 million, of all American children are impoverished, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. In the U.S., a baby is born into poverty every 32 seconds. Every day, 66 babies die before their first birthday. If that isn’t enough to shake one’s moral foundation, consider this: By the end of the day, 1,837 children will have been confirmed as being either abused or neglected.
In light of International Youth Day, the WalletHub team decided to deviate from personal finance topics and instead use its analytical abilities to underscore the social issues that plague one of the most vulnerable groups of Americans. We compared the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia based on their numbers of underprivileged children. By examining 16 key metrics — ranging from infant death rates and children in foster care to child food insecurity rates and percentage of maltreated children — we were able to provide an insightful look into the living and economic conditions of youth in each state.
Early Foundations & Economic Well-Being Rank
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Every child is entitled to a meaningful childhood. Unfortunately, not all will experience one. In order to identify problem areas and learn how best to address some of them, we’ve asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- Around 16% of families in the U.S. have incomes below the poverty level. What are the main reasons behind such a high number?
- What are the key issues (e.g., abuse, homelessness, etc.) that are affecting children in the U.S.?
- Are elected officials placing a sufficiently high priority on the needs of underprivileged children? What can they do differently?
- As a society, how can we best help underprivileged kids live a meaningful childhood and eventually realize the American Dream?
To study the living and economic conditions of youth in each state, WalletHub ranked the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia across 16 key metrics, ranging from infant death rates and children in foster care to child food insecurity rates and percentage of maltreated children. By bringing key issues to the forefront, WalletHub aims to engender change and galvanize groups to act on behalf of society’s future propellers.
The corresponding weights we used are shown below. The three categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.
Early Foundations & Economic Well-Being
- % of Children in Foster Care: 1
- % of Children in Single-Parent Families: 1
- % of Children Living with Grandparents Responsible for them with No Parent in the Home: 1
- % of Children in Households with Below-Poverty Income: 1
- % of Children living in Households with Public Assistance: 0.5
- Ratio of Children living in Renter-Occupied Housing Units to Children living in Owner-Occupied Housing Units: 0.5
- Economic Mobility Rank: 1
- Homeless Persons in Families per Capita: 1
- % of Children without Health Insurance Coverage: 1
- % of Maltreated Children: 1
- Child Food Insecurity Rate: 1
- Infant Deaths Rate: 1
- Child Death Rate: 1
- Public High School Graduation Rate: 0.5
- Best School System Ranking: 0.5
- % of Teens Ages 16 to 19 not attending School and not working: 1
Sources: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Equality of Opportunity Project, the Kids Count - Anney E. Casey Foundation, Feeding America and WalletHub research.