Minnesota retained a top spot when it comes to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's annual state rankings of child health, but is falling back to the pack on the key measure of child poverty.

While the rate of children living in poverty increased 18 percent in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009, the rate increased 56 percent in Minnesota over the same timeframe. The state's actual rate of child poverty is still better than the national average (14 percent in Minnesota in 2009 compared to 20 percent in the U.S.). But Minnesota used to rank 2nd among states for its low child poverty rate. Now it ranks 11th.

"Unless we deal with the increases in child poverty, we cannot begin to address the other challenges represented in the data to promote the health and well-being of Minnesota’s children," said Kara Arzamendia, the research director at Children’s Defense Fund–Minnesota.

Arzamendia noted that the increase in child poverty actually started before the recession, but that the economic declines in recent years certainly played a role.

The state rankings were released Wednesday in the 2011 Kids Count Data Book, which takes the latest available statistics on 10 key measures of child-health and well-being and combines them to provide a portrait of each state. Minnesota ranked second overall for child health in the Data Book, thanks to its high rate of high-school graduates, its low rate of infant deaths, and its low rate of babies born at low weights.

Other than child poverty, Minnesota ranked among the ten best in all of the other measures of child health. The other substantial change in Minnesota over the past decade was the increase in single-parent families. In 2000, only 21 percent of children were raised in single-parent families. That figure jumped to 26 percent in 2009.

This year's Kids Count Data Book revealed the well-being of children at the depth of the most recent economic recession. The number of Minnesota children living with parents who either had no jobs or only worked part-time was 25 percent in 2009. That was an increase from 22 percent in 2008. 

"Now we really are starting to see what impact the recession had on children," Arzamendia said. "The gains we made with a strong economy in the 90s have really been kind of wiped out." 


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