Somber news about the state of our nation's economy and culture seems to be everywhere. Clearly, there are solid reasons to be concerned about both.
It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that only gloom is in order. Kids Count, a new report by the Anne E. Casey Foundation, presents a statistical overview of the status of American children with respect to educational achievement, health status and economic well-being. While there are some discouraging numbers, much of the data shows significant movement in a positive direction, with Iowa ranking especially well on most of the dimensions measured.
"This year's findings reveal signs of hope in the midst of tough economic times for millions of families across the country," said Patrick McCarthy, the Casey Foundation's president and chief executive officer, in a statement accompanying the recent release of the report.
According to the Kids Count study, between 2005 and 2011 there were improvements nationally in children's health and education that included:
A 20 percent decrease in the number of young folks without health insurance,
A 16 percent decline in the child and teen death rate,
An 11 percent drop in the rate of high school students not graduating in four years, and
An 8 percent reduction in the proportion of eighth-graders rated less than proficient in math.
The study ranked states in terms of the overall well-being of kids. Iowa logged an impressive eighth place nationally.
In terms of the economic well-being of young folks, the Hawkeye State placed No. 3 nationally, perhaps reflecting the state's relatively low unemployment rate - 5.2 percent as of June. It didn't fare quite as well in terms of educational achievement, placing only No. 14, but ranked in the top 10 vis-a-vis the health status of children, coming in at No. 9. Iowa also was a top performer with regard to the study's evaluation of the overall family situation in which youngsters find themselves, achieving a ranking of No. 8.
Iowans can take pride that many things are going right in this state and most especially that they are doing a good job of looking out for the state's future - its children.
The Kids Count data are not, of course, the occasion for complacency. There remains substantial room for improvement both here and across the nation.
"The data reveal that there is still much to be done to improve the prospects for the next generation," said Laura Speer, the Casey's Foundation's director of policy reform and data, in a statement summarizing the report. "They also show that a child's success depends not only on individual, family and community resources, but also on the state where he or she grows up."
The report documents what many of us already knew intuitively - Iowa is a place that puts a high priority on looking after its children. We should resolve to build on that record of positive accomplishment to do even better in the years ahead