South Carolina currently ranks 45th among the states according to the latest data on the well-being of children from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.Each state is ranked in 10 key indicators: infant mortality, child deaths, teen deaths, teen births, high school dropouts, teens not in school and not working, low-birth weight babies, children living in families where no parent has full-time year-round employment, children in poverty, and children in single parent families.
National Kids Count project coordinator Laura Beavers says six out of the ten indicators improved in South Carolina, while four became worst. She says that’s close to the national level. “On the national level we saw improvements in six out of the ten indicators, and we saw drops in four of them, so South Carolina is tracking the national trends closely.
Nine-hundred thousand more children were living in poverty nationally and nearly one-third of all children in the U.S. lived in families where neither parent had full-time, year-round employment, according to 2007 data.
Beavers says the most important indicator is the number of kids born into poverty, because that affects other factors, like low birth weight. “They’re more likely to become teen parents, less likely to graduate from high school. On the national level, there was an increase in the child poverty level between 2000 and 2007, and the same in South Carolina, where 21 percent of kids were living with families below the poverty level, which is $21,000 annual income for a family of four.”
But Beavers says it’s very disconcerting that the the figures available this year actually show what happened in 2007, before the economic recession, so figures released in reports over the next two years will show a worse picture. “We know nationally that the unemployment rate has doubled since 2007. So we know that our figures this year under-represent the level of struggle that families are feeling.”
Beavers says Kids Count officials hope that as states grapple with economic issues, that they don’t forget about the welfare of children and their struggling families.
Another key indicator is teen drop-out rate, which has been improving nationally as well as in the Palmetto State, even though South Carolina is still lagging behind the rest of the country. “In 2007, 19 percent of teens between the ages of 16 and 19 were high school dropouts in South Carolina, compared to 14 percent in 2000. So it has gone down but it’s still higher than the national average. We know that a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for supporting yourself and a family.”
The percentage of South Carolina teens who are high school dropouts dropped 36percent between 2000 and 2007, the same as the national average.
The percentage of low birthweight babies in Sout Carolina increased by four percent between 2000 and 2007, lower than the nine percent increase nationally.
This year there is a new online Data Center full of local information at datacenter.kidscount.org that contains hundreds of measures of child well-being covering national, state, and even county and city information. Users can now access geographic profiles that include information on education, economic well-being, the number of children in immigrant families, health, and many more topics.