by Fred Kammer, S.J.
This month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its new rankings for the KIDS COUNT indicators for the year 2011. At the bottom of the 50 states are Mississippi (50th), Louisiana (49th), and Alabama (48th). Texas (35th) and Florida (36th) again ranked in the bottom third of states.
The annual KIDS COUNT report provides concerned citizens with a variety of measures—economic, social, educational, and familial—that paint a panorama of the well-being of children in America, in the 50 states, and often by local jurisdictions as well. While there are many indicators provided by the KIDS COUNT data center, the KIDS COUNT report uses ten “key indicators” for setting the overall rank of the 50 states in the annual report. These are:
For a closer and comparative look, the table below highlights the overall rank of the five Gulf South states and five of the key indicators for each state (including the state’s rank on each particular indicator) and for the nation.
|2011 KIDS COUNT||Overall state rank||
Children in poverty __________ Rank
Children in single-parent households __________ Rank
Chidlren in families where no parent has F/T year-round job __________ Rank
Low birthweight babies __________ Rank
Teens 16-19 not in school, not working __________ Rank
Most of these states have been at or near the bottom of so many social and economic indicators for decades. Despite this fact, the efforts-to-date of policy-makers, community leaders, and citizen and religious groups have had little effect on their states’ rankings during this time. When we look at the condition of many of today’s Gulf South children reflected in these indicators—family income, birthweight, education—there seem to be few significant signs of hope that their children will not be condemned to continue to live at or near the bottom of the nation—without focused, highly determined efforts to address issues of child poverty in the immediate future.
Unless people of faith and others of good will resolve to change the situation for Gulf South children, our past will continue to be our future. See, for example, the 2011 “Bread or Stones” resolution of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference to change the standing of their state in the KIDS COUNT listings; the test will now be whether resolution language is transformed into concrete action on behalf of Louisiana’s children.
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