An annual report out today ranks Iowa the 7th best state in the country for raising kids — down from 5th in the last survey. The " Kids Count " survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation uses 10 factors to rank the states. Mike Crawford is the director of the Iowa "Kids Count" organization.
Crawford says Iowa generally ranks between fifth and 10th, so the state is about where it normally is. He says there’s not much difference between the top states. The report is based on data from 2004 and 2005, and showed the biggest improvement in the teen death rate, which fell 42-percent.
Crawford says since 2000 the teen death rate in the state has dropped from 77 per 100,000 to 45 per 100,000 teens. He credits stricter driving laws for teens that have led to less fatal accidents. One of the negative areas was a 15-percent increase in the number of low birthweight babies. But at the same time, the infant mortality rate decreased by 22-percent.
Crawford says modern medical technology has kept more of the low birthweight babies alive, while unfortunately more babies are being born at a weight below five pounds. He says Iowa needs to improve its prenatal programs that teach young mothers how to take care of themselves — leading to better health of the babies born here.
Another area that got worse in this year’s report was the number of children living with families where neither parent had a full-time job. Crawford says Iowa got dropped by 13-percent, but still ranked number one in the category. He says the economy has kept families in all states from having the income they need, but not as bad in Iowa. Overall Crawford says Iowa continues to be a great place to raise kids.
Crawford says the state is doing well in the teen and infant death rates, but needs to improve in the low birthrate and some of the financial areas in the next few years. Minnesota ranked first overall in the survey, followed by New Hampshire, Connecticut, Utah, Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa. North Dakota, New Jersey and Nebraska rounded out the top 10. Mississippi was ranked the worst overall.