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California Ranks Among 10 Worst States for Children’s Well-Being

California came in at 41st in a nationwide ranking of children’s well-being, according to a report released late last month.

The state ranked just ahead of Texas, which finished in 42nd place. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts earned the highest rankings, while Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico ranked lowest.

The report, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in partnership with Children Now, determined rankings by taking into account the state’s performance in 16 areas, including graduation rates, parental unemployment rates, and the percentage of children who are uninsured. California placed 41st in 2012 as well.

Jelena Hasbrouck, Children Now’s member recruitment manager, called the findings “alarming” and said they “signal a need for those in our state that want to improve children’s lives to collectively work together for greater impact.”

The state fared worst in children’s economic well-being, where it placed 46th in the nation. In recent years, California has worsened in all four areas that the study uses to determine economic well-being – the percentages of children living in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, and teens not enrolled in school who are unemployed.

Notably, over 50 percent of California’s children live in households with a high housing cost burden, compared to 40 percent of children nationally. Over 75 percent of children from low-income families in California live in households where housing costs exceed 30 percent of the family’s income.

Nearly one in four (23 percent) California kids lives in a family whose income is below the federal poverty level, up from 17 percent in 2007. Of those, 37 percent are American Indian, 34 percent are African American, 31 percent are Latino, 14 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 10 percent are white. Seventeen percent are members of two or more races.

California ranks 29th in health, down from 23rd last year. Health was scored by the percentages of low-birth weight babies, child and teen deaths, teens who abuse alcohol or drugs, and children who lack health insurance. The state has made modest improvements in health; currently, 8 percent of California’s children are uninsured, down from 11 percent in 2008.

Jessica Mindnich, Children Now’s research director, notes that the report shows that as employer-based health coverage is trending down, public coverage is picking up the slack. The most recent data available show that 43 percent of kids are covered by their families’ employer-based plans, down from 47 percent in 2007. Thirty-five percent of kids are covered by public plans like Medi-Cal, up from 29 percent in 2007.

While findings show that over 90 percent of California’s kids have continuous health insurance, Mindnich says that with more children being covered by public programs, Children Now is concerned with their real access to medical providers.

For example, though Children Now found that 80 percent of California’s kids have dental insurance, Mindnich says that in 29 counties across the state, there are no pediatric dentists that accept Denti-Cal, the state’s dental program under Medi-Cal.

“We want to make sure that the state is prioritizing children and treating them like a treasured human capital,” says Mindnich.