Minnesota continues to rank among the nation’s top states for child well-being, but a new report shows rising rates of child poverty are creating racial disparities among the worst in the nation.
The annual Kids Count report, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Children’s Defense Fund, ranked Minnesota No. 5 in the nation for child well-being, behind Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa and New Hampshire. It has placed in the top five for more than 10 years.
But the number of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods has doubled, from 3 percent in 2000 to 6 percent in 2012. Despite the economic recovery of the past six years, 15 percent of Minnesotan children lived in poverty in 2012, up three percentage points from 2005.
While that rate compared well to other states, poverty rates among Minnesota’s minority children are some of the worst in the nation. Almost half of African-American children lived in poverty in 2012, along with 38 percent of American Indian children, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino children, and 20 percent of Asian children.
All the minority poverty rates exceed the national average, possibly because of Minnesota’s large immigrant and refugee communities, according to Stephanie Hogenson, Research and Policy Director at the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota.
“But I think it is much more than that in our state,” Hogenson said. “I think we’ve ignored this problem of disparity for far too long.”
Minnesota has improved on most measures of child health, with the percentage of children lacking insurance down to 5 percent from 6 percent in 2008. Other states, however, are doing much better.
The state’s overall health ranking for children slid to 17th nationally, down from 15th in 2013 and seventh the previous year. As one of the healthiest states overall in the country, and with globally renowned health care, Minnesota should not be in the middle of the pack for child health, Hogenson said.
“We’re no longer seen as a leader in child health as we once were,” she said.
Minnesota’s growing minority population could place additional demands on early education programs and the state’s child-care subsidy system, which has a backlog of about 8,000 families, Hogenson said. More than half of 3- and 4-year-olds are not attending preschool, and numbers are even higher for children of color, according to the report.
However, Minnesota mirrored the nation with a rising percentage of children overall attending preschool and a decline in the number of schoolchildren who are not proficient in reading and math. Teen birthrates are at a historic low, and the number of teens who abuse drugs and alcohol also improved.