The latest Iowa Kids Count survey released today shows improvement in health and education related areas for kids in the state. Michael Crawford of the Child and Family Policy Center says the data compares information from 2013 to 2000 for 20 different “indicators.”
“We think it’s encouraging that the health and educational status of Iowa children has shown improvement in the last decade or so,” Crawford says. “The teen birth rate, the infant and child and teen mortality rates all have decreased since 2000 — which obviously are good signs. Educationally, the preschool enrollment has increased, as has the high school graduation rate.”
The survey shows a drop more than 30-percent in the number of deaths among children and infants and also in the number of babies born to teens. “Over the last 13 years or so, teen births have decreased 35 to 38 percent, which is a good sign. I think they’ve decreased pretty much across the country,” Crawford says. “I think there is just probably just a better education going on whether in the schools or the home. Maybe part of that is abstinence, it’s greater than it was 15-20 years ago, but none-the-less the signs are good as far as teen births.”
Crawford says the economic indicators show continued need for improvement. “In 2013, 1 in 7 people in Iowa received food assistance — which used to be called food stamps. That’s quite a number, in fact it has more than tripled since 2000,” according the Crawford. “In addition, the child poverty rate and the free and reduced priced lunch rate saw substantial increases in the last decade.” The numbers from the survey do lag a little behind, and Crawford says there has been some improvement for the state in the last couple of years as the unemployment rate has fallen.
Iowa has seen a shift in population from the rural areas to urban areas, and Crawford says that shift shows up in the survey. “The urban counties because of their populations sometimes have rates that aren’t quite as good as some of the rural areas for most of what I call the administrative indicators — like the health and education indicators,” Crawford says. “But the economic indicators seem to favor the more urban counties. The jobs are more likely to be there and they pay a higher income, so there’s more families living above poverty.”
While the larger populations may increase the issues faced in urban counties, those counties often have more resources to deal with the problems than the rural counties. “On top of that, there’s also easier access for people living in urban areas to get to those particular programs or get to those places they need to be,” Crawford explains. “In a rural area you may be 30 miles away from the place you need to get for taking a child to a doctor or things like that. There’s a disadvantage there certainly.”
The annual study funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which also puts out a study comparing all 50 states. Find out more about the survey at the Child and Family Policy Center’s website.