Utah Ranks #7 Nationwide When It Comes To Children's Welfare
An annual report on how children across the nation are doing shows Utah succeeding in some areas, with room to improve in others.
Utah ranks number one in the family and community category and 21 in health, according to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The data book tracks four domains: health, education, family and community, and economic wellbeing.
Voices for Utah Children is a nonprofit organization that does policy work for children and families, advocating on their behalf at the Utah Legislature. Deputy Director Terry Haven says the organization uses information from the Kids Count Data Book each year to find problem areas and guide solutions. For example, one of the reasons Utah ranks 21 in health is because it has one of highest rates of kids without health insurance in the nation.
“That's an area that we work heavily on; that's why we work so heavily on Medicaid expansion and getting the ballot passed," Haven said. "That's why we've worked for years on trying to get Medicaid expansion in the state, because we know that when parents are insured that kids are also more likely to be insured, so we know that that will help. In the states that have expanded Medicaid, children uninsured rates are lower.”
Haven says Utah is usually in the top 10 for children’s wellbeing. The state has seen improvements in many areas, but since 1990, when the Casey Foundation produced its first Kids Count Data Book, Haven says the state’s youth population has boomed—which means there are more kids struggling.
“We have almost 300,000 more children now than we did in 1990," Haven said. "And so even in those areas where we've improved over the last 30 years, for example, poverty we've improved slightly over the last 30 years, but we have 20,000 more kids in poverty than we did back 30 years ago.”
Voices for Utah Children releases data for individual counties in Utah every year as well, though measurements are sourced differently from the nationwide count. For Summit and Wasatch Counties, Haven says the most recent data show the percentage of women receiving prenatal care is lower than the state average, and in a related metric, the percentage of low birth weight babies is higher than the state. But when it comes to economic indicators, like child poverty, both counties do well.
“So when we look at child poverty in Summit County, it's 7.2%, where for the state it's 11.0, and so it's a little bit better," Haven said. "Wasatch at 7.6, so both of those counties do much better than the rest of the state.”
Voices for Utah Children will release its next edition of the Utah Kids Count Data Book this fall.