The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its KIDS COUNT Data Book yesterday revealing nationwide gains in the areas of education and health, while economic well-being is still the major hindrance preventing improvement across the board. The KIDS COUNT book is divided into four categories—economic well-being, education, health, and family and community—and features several infographs, which rank improvement or decline at a national level as well as on a state-by-state basis.

The data book focuses on the long-term impact that poverty can have on young children. From a national standpoint, it is revealed that unemployment rates continued to decrease in 2011, but the number of families living in poverty continues to increase, with nearly one-third of all children living in homes with parents who do not have secure and stable employment.

Proficiency in reading and math was highlighted in the data book with 68 percent of fourth graders being unable to read on grade-level in 2011, and 66 percent of eighth graders not proficient in math. In terms of health, the percentage of children without health insurance decreased to seven percent, down from 10 percent in 2008. In 2000, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas was nine percent. This statistic worsened to 12 percent in 2007-2011.

The book lists the top five states to cater to overall child well-being as New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The lowest ranking states are Louisiana, Arizona, Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico. Mississippi and New Mexico were the only two states to appear in the bottom five for all four categories.

Improvement is evident nationally and statewide, but the KIDS COUNT Data Book shows that there is still a long way to go before the well-being of all of our children is guaranteed. With evidence that poverty can suppress brain development and therefore have long-lasting negative impacts on children, it is important that efforts be made across states to improve child well-being.

Here are some crucial facts listed in the data book:

The percentage of children living in poverty in 2011 increased to 23 percent or nearly 16.4 million from 19 percent in 2005.
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About 871,000 or 22 percent of high school students do not graduate on time, down from 27 percent in 2005 and 2006.
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The number of child and teen deaths in 2011 improved from 32 in 2005 to 26 per 100,000 in 2010. Tweet this fact.

Children being raised in high poverty environments increased to 12 percent in 2007-2011, up from nine percent in 2000. Tweet this fact.