The annual "Kids Count" survey shows that Iowa kids have been impacted by economic issues even before the latest economic downturn. Iowa Kids Count director, Michael Crawford, looked at the trends beginning at the start of this decade. Crawford says the non-economic indicators, those dealing with health and education are doing well, but the economic indicators have not done very well.
He says things like infant deaths, and child deaths decreased by more than ten percent, while the teen birth rate, and unmarried teen births dropped, and high school test scores and graduation rates have increased. Crawford says the economic indicators show a bleaker picture, as food assistance has increased 90% as far as eligibility since 2000, the unemployment rate has increased by 46-percent, and child poverty has increased as well.
"Kids are being born healthy and being raised healthy, which is a good sign, but unfortunately economically it has been a difficult time for the families the last seven years," Crawford says. He says the data only goes through 2007, so things could be worse next year. Crawford says some short term fixes would be to increase food assistance and unemployment assistance.
In the long term, he says the state should increase the minimum wage to nine-dollars-an-hour and increase the earned income tax credit and raise the child care subsidy limit from 145-percent of poverty to 200-percent of poverty to increase its availability. Crawford says doing anything right now might be tough, but he says the state has to look ahead.
He says it’s difficult to embrace these programs with the current economic conditions, but he says the state should work toward them in the next five years. The "Kids Count" survey looks at 19 indicators to determine how well as state is doing. Crawford says he believes overall Iowa is doing a little better than other states. You can find the entire survey on the Kids Count website .