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Oklahoma Stays Among 10 Worst States In Child Well-Being

Oklahoma ranks 42nd for child well-being according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT report, up from 45th last year.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual report ranks states on economic well-being, family and community context, education, and health. Oklahoma dropped one spot to 41st in family and community context indicators. The state moved up seven spots to 42nd in health and three spots to 45th in education.

Oklahoma kept its 33rd-place ranking in the economic well-being category, but Oklahoma Policy Institute KIDS COUNT Data Coordinator Gabrielle Jacobi said those indicators still aren’t promising. One in five Oklahoma kids lives in poverty, and Jacobi said that’s a problem that must be addressed.

"Because even if they go to a great school for eight hours of a day, if a child is still coming home and is worried about maybe not having enough to eat or whether the lights will be on or not having a parent at home because they're working, that overall will impact a student's educational attainment and their future outcomes," Jacobi said.

In all, Oklahoma improved or at least held steady across all 16 of the report’s indicators.

Jacobi said state leaders have done some things aimed at improving Oklahoma’s standing, just not as much as officials in other states have done.

"Oklahoma policymakers made a big first step this past legislative session by restoring the refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit. So, that was a big step in getting families more of their money back each year on their taxes, as well as we did increase our education funding these past four years," Jacobi said. "So, we've gotten a start. We just need to do a little bit more."

States ranking worse than Oklahoma were Alaska, West Virginia, Nevada, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi. The top five states were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont and Utah.

This year’s KIDS COUNT rankings are based on data from 2019, so effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not reflected in them. The Annie E. Casey Foundation produced a special report about the pandemic's impacts on child well-being.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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