2013KIDSCOUNTDataBookr_Page_01The 2013 version of the KIDS COUNT Data Book was recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The publication gives a state-by-state breakdown on the overall well-being of children across the United States. Child well-being is a composite index combining data for economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. As part of its regional analysis, KIDS COUNT found that by and large, the Midwest region was one of the best in terms of economic well-being of children — while states in the Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States ranked at or near the bottom for overall child well-being.

Understanding how children are faring in a region such as the Southwest, for example, is particularly important because the child population is growing faster in this region than anywhere else in the country. The seven Southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and Colorado were home to 28.5% of all U.S. children in 2010.

In terms of economic well-being, 4 of 7 Southwestern states were ranked 46th or lower by KIDS COUNT. However, Utah and Colorado were ranked 11th and 19th, respectively. According to KIDS COUNT, 23% of children (16.4 million) across the country lived in poverty in 2011. The Southwest alone had over 10 million children living in poverty. This means 61% of U.S. children living in poverty could be found in the Southwest in 2011.

First Focus’ publication, Big Ideas 2012: Children in the Southwest, is a set of papers put together which focus on improving child well-being, specifically in the Southwest. According to a Big Ideas paper by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Southwestern states spend less money on K-12 education per child, medical assistance per poor child, and income support per poor child, than any other region in the U.S.

When a child lives in poverty, it is tough for all of his/her basic needs to be met. No parent should have to worry about feeding a hungry child or taking a sick child to the doctor. As Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus, has written, “To do right by our children in the Southwest and around the country, we need to tackle the problems facing them with a proactive set of solutions that will allow them to reach their full potential.”

By Kevin Curran, First Focus Intern Associate