The annual Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E Casey Foundation ranked Tennessee 36th among the states for children’s well-being.
The report found slight improvements in some areas and challenges in others. The Data Book examines factors in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Jonquil Newland, director of media relations for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said the numbers improved for economic well-being, especially in the child poverty rate, which is at 18%, and fewer children living in high-poverty areas.
“Tennessee has seen an improvement in ‘child living in poverty’ areas,” Newland reported. “The current percentage is half of the decade since 2003. This year’s rank improvement shows Tennessee improving beyond other states.”
Newland emphasized the accessibility of affordable child care has been a challenge. The Data Book said it costs almost $6,700 a year for child care, which is about 23% of the median income. She added the state could be doing more to lower the cost for families in need of child care.
Tennessee ranks 30th for education, according to the Data Book.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said much of the nation saw declines in third-grade reading proficiency, as well as math proficiency by the eighth grade, largely due to the pandemic.
“It’s imperative that we invest in education systems to ensure that we can stem those gaps,” Boissiere asserted. “That we can sort-of change the trajectory of poor children by improving the outcomes at those critical moments in their lives.”
She noted the key indicators often determine whether young people will graduate from high school on time and if they will be able to get a good job. Boissiere added nationwide child well-being has declined a bit overall since last year’s Data Book, and in terms of education, three of four indicators got worse.