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Alabama’s national ranking for child well-being improves, still room for progress

Alabama is improving in child well-being, according to a 50-state report of recent data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual report, The Kids Count Data Book, indicated that Alabama has progressed from 45th to 39th in the category this year.

To establish the national rankings the report took into account economic well-being, education, health, family, and community factors in individual states. The Foundation was specifically interested in how children are functioning post pandemic.

KIDS COUNT grantee, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, partnered with VOICES for Alabama Children.

“The KIDS COUNT Data Book tells two stories regarding Alabama: how the state compares to others and how Alabama compares with itself in year-over-year data and trends,” said Rhonda Mann, VOICES’ executive director. “Looking through a national lens, Alabama’s rankings are climbing, yet the state’s child well-being outcomes still need attention.”

“We are cautiously optimistic about the gains we are seeing in Alabama’s child well-being data. While we cannot deny that many children and families face significant challenges in our state, we know that with investments in effective programs and family supports and resources, the areas needing attention can also improve.”

While Alabama’s students experienced learning loss during the pandemic like the rest of the country, the state has been recognized as the only to exceed pre-pandemic levels of achievement. State education policymakers credit investments in early literacy and numeracy.

Even with the success, there is still much work to be done to improve child well being in Alabama. The increase in child poverty, low math scores, and stagnant reading scores did not help the overall ranking.

For example, a portion of data from the report showed that in 2022, only 19% of Alabama eighth graders scored at or above proficient in math, marking a decline of 3% between 2019 and 2022. Reading remained the same at 28% for fourth graders scoring at or above proficient in the same time frame. Despite those statistics, Alabama’s ranking in that particular area improved from 47th to 41st.

Additional concerns come from the fact that in 2022, 29% of children, a 6% decrease since 2019, lived in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. Alabama also ranked third in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance coverage.

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on X @ShipleyAusten

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