Putting an end to preventable deaths by suicide extends beyond Don Graham’s role as Jones County Fire Rescue chief and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director. It’s a personal obligation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its latest national KIDS COUNT®Data Book on June 27, 2018. Georgia ranks 39th in the nation for overall child and family well-being—the first time our state has ranked higher than 40th since 2012. Though Georgia’s children and families still face challenges, the investments Georgia has made in its children and families over the past decade are poised to pay dividends.
While this overall ranking cannot be directly compared to previous years because methodology has changed over time, the report shows that more students in Georgia are proficient in reading and math, fewer children are living in poverty, and more children are living in families where the head of the household has a high-school diploma. And though Georgia’s children and families still face challenges, there are some promising trends for the state.
“Healthy children are our state’s most valuable resource, and Georgia is committed to providing each child with a strong foundation for growth and development,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “As we continue our work to make Georgia a leader in all industries, we are making significant investments in K-12 education, as well as early care and learning through the Quality Rated program, to ensure students are reading on grade-level and experiencing significant academic achievement. By cultivating safe and supportive environments conducive to success both in the classroom and the workforce, we are better preparing our students to meet the challenges of today, tomorrow, and beyond.”
The investments Georgia has made in its children and families over the past decade are poised to pay dividends. The state’s commitment to increasing high-quality early care and learning through Quality Rated and Get Georgia Reading—Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and the emphasis on creating a Georgia where all children can read on grade level by the end of third grade, are examples of these investments.
“A continued commitment to serving children and families will position the state to improve further in the opportunities for our children to become successful Georgians,” said Georgia Family Connection Partnership Executive Director Gaye Smith. “If we stay the course with these types of strategic investments, all Georgians will benefit from the resulting progress and positive community outcomes. But it’s not enough to work hard for our children and families. We must continue to work for them together in both the public and private sectors.”
The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains—health, education, economic well-being, and family and community—to assess child well-being. The report uses data from 2016, the most recent available.
More Economic Stability for Georgia’s Families
Georgia ranks 37th in Economic Well-being. Families and children are experiencing more economic stability than in previous years, with Georgia’s economic domain rank improving by seven spots over last year, and all four indicators showing progress both year-to-year and compared to 2010. Georgia’s child poverty rate continued to drop, decreasing to 23 percent, down from 24 percent in 2015, and 25 percent in 2010. (The national average is 19 percent.) Georgia’s percentage of teens not in school and not working also improved to 8 percent, down from 9 percent in 2015 and 12 percent in 2010. Finally, the percentages of children whose parents lack secure employment and children living in households with a high housing cost burden, both dropped one percentage point from last year, and several percentage points from 2010.
Continued Positive Education Trends Key to a Robust Workforce
Georgia ranks 34th in education. Mostly positive education trends continue, with fewer eighth-graders scoring below proficient in math, and fewer fourth-graders scoring below proficient in reading. The 2015 data showed that 72 percent of eighth-graders were below proficient in math, and in 2016, that percentage fell to 69 percent, compared with a national average of 67 percent. The percentage of high school students not graduating on time remained the same as in the previous report at 21 percent, but that number represents a significant improvement from 2010, when 33 percent of Georgia high school students failed to graduate on time. A strong educational pipeline, from birth through early adulthood, is key to ensuring that Georgia builds a capable, robust workforce and continues to be a place people want to call home.
Teen Birth Rate at an All-Time Low
Georgia ranks 40th in family and community, improving in that domain by one spot over last year’s rank, based on improvements in teen births, children living in high-poverty areas, and adult educational attainment. At 13 percent, this is the lowest ever percentage of Georgia children growing up in a family where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma. Georgia’s teen birth rate continues to fall, reaching an all-time low at 24 per 1,000, compared to the national average of 20 per 1,000.
Low Birthweight on the Rise
Georgia ranks 39th in health this year, but the domain rank cannot be compared to previous years because the methodology for calculating drug and alcohol abuse has changed. This domain saw mixed results that included an increase in low birthweight babies and child and teen deaths. After improving its low birthweight rate between 2010 and last year’s data, Georgia’s rate rose to its highest rate in the Data Book’s 29-year history at 9.8 percent. The national low birthweight rate rose as well between 2015 and 2016, but remains significantly lower than Georgia’s rate at 8.2 percent. Georgia did improve on the percentage of children without health insurance, going from 7 percent last year to 6 percent this year, and down from 10 percent in 2010.
“Georgia’s economic vitality depends upon our ability to improve the quality of life for all Georgians,” said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “With over 29 percent of rural children living in poverty we must be proactive in our efforts to provide adequate healthcare, transportation, education, and employment to end the cycle of generational poverty. As we seek to invest in our next generation, it is critical that we create solutions that advance sustainable economic mobility for Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Download the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book at aecf.org/databook, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
Georgia KIDS COUNT Manager
Georgia Family Connection Partnership
GaFCP Communications Director
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Georgia Family Connection turned 25 in 2016, so we’re taking you on a journey—region by region—throughout our anniversary year to show you the landscape for children and families across our state.
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