A new study comparing the best and worst states for underprivileged children ranks Arizona 49th in the nation. Only Mississippi and the District of Columbia received worse scores. (In sub-categories, we ranked 50th out of 51 in early-foundations and economic well-being, 37th in health, and 48th in education.)
The study was conducted by data experts at WalletHub, and used data from federal departments like the U.S. Census Bureau and Health and Human Services, as well as from a variety of nonprofits and research centers like the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Equality of Opportunity project.
Using 15 different metrics, like the percentage of children in foster care, infant mortality rate, economic mobility, high school graduation rate, and the percentage of children in households with below-poverty income, the group was able to rank how well states take care of their most vulnerable population.
The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that 22 percent of kids in the United States live in a family forced to survive on income that’s lower than the federal poverty rate, and in Arizona, the statistics are even more frightening. According to the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count data study, the percentage of children living in poverty in the state has been above the national average for at least the past five or six years. (The most recent Kids Count data says that 421,000 children in Arizona — 26 percent — live in poverty.)
“Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development, writes the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn. It can contribute to behavioral, social, and emotional problems and poor health.”
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The “research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being,” states the NCCP.