Mississippi’s standing has improved for the first time in 24 years on the national Kids Count survey that measures the well-being of children and families.
But before you start back-slapping and high-fiving, we note that the state has moved to 49th, from 50th, in the annual compilation of statistics by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The survey compared 2011, the latest figures available, with 2005.
New Mexico has fallen into last place. Mississippi and Louisiana at 46th place are the only southern states in the bottom five. Arizona and Nevada have the other spots.
Improvements in education and health contributed to Mississippi’s improved ranking. The percentage of children not attending pre-school went down to 50 percent from 54. Seventy-eight percent of fourth graders were not proficient in reading, down from 82 percent, and 81 percent of eighth graders were not proficient in math, down from 86 percent.
In the health category, 8 percent of children had no health insurance, down from 13 percent, and the number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 was reduced to 38 from 52.
Less encouraging results were in the economic well-being categories. Thirty-two percent of Mississippi children live in poverty, up from 31 percent; 38 percent live in homes whose parents lack secure employment, an increase from 35 percent, and 12 percent of teens are not in school and not working, up from 9 percent.
So, overall we made improvement in some categories, but the state and our elected officials, especially had the state level, have a long way to go to significantly improve the well-being of our children and families.