January 18, 2012
AMANDA LEE MYERS
CINCINNATI — A new national study has ranked Ohio 27th in the nation when it comes to child well-being and found that the number of children living in poverty in the state increased by 4 percentage points amid the recession.
The annual Kids Count survey, published Wednesday, found that 624,000 Ohio children, or 23 percent, were living in poverty in 2010. The national figure was 22 percent in 2010, the most recent figures available.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation survey defines poverty as living in a household with incomes below $22,000 a year for a family of four.
In 2005, the survey reports that 506,000 Ohio children, or 19 percent, were living in poverty.
In overall well-being, Ohio ranked in the middle of the pack among states at No. 27. New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont were ranked highest in the country, while Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi had the lowest marks.
Laura Speer, associate director for policy, reform and data at the foundation, said that for the most part, Ohio followed national trends.
“Ohio’s a good measure of what’s going on in the country overall,” Speer said. “This is evidence of the recession’s impact on kids and how important it is that when decisions are made about how to deal with the impacts of the recession, kids and families are taken into consideration. It’s not just about business’s bottom line.”
The survey also found that the number of children living in high-poverty areas in Ohio nearly doubled, increasing by 5 percentage points to 12 percent, or 324,000 children.
Speer said that Ohio strayed from national trends in two areas — the rate of teenagers who give birth and reading proficiency among fourth-graders.
While both those areas improved nationally and in other states, they remained static in Ohio, according to the survey.
In terms of education and health, the survey found that Ohio improved in several areas. More children now have health insurance, there are fewer child and teen deaths per capita, and there are fewer teens abusing alcohol or drugs, according to the survey.
Also, more children are attending preschool, more eighth-graders are proficient in math, and more high school students are graduating on time, according to the survey.