An annual children’s health and well-being report shows South Carolina dropping slightly in rankings — last year the state ranked 38th in the nation for child well-being, while this year it’s 39th.
The annual Kids Count report looks at economic well-being, education, health, and family and community to come up with the rankings. Although the state’s overall rank dropped, South Carolina actually improved or stayed the same in 14 of the 16 subcategories the rankings are based on.
Aditi Srivastav, research and community impact manager at Children’s Trust of South Carolina, said that because South Carolina improved in several of the indicators, the drop in rank is indicative of other states improving at a faster rate.
“Having a lower ranking this year does not necessarily mean that we’re doing worse or we’re doing better,” Srivastav said. “In many cases, we are doing the same. But it does mean that perhaps progress in other states has been more drastic, which can also bump down our ranking.”
Overall, South Carolina has jumped up in rankings in the past few decades, even though it dropped a slot from 2018 to 2019. In 1991, South Carolina ranked 48th in the nation for children’s well-being — in 2010, it jumped to 45th, and in 2015, the state ranked 42nd.
In economic well-being, South Carolina dropped from 34th in the nation in 2018 to 38th this year, despite having identical data this year. The data for the 2019 report did not change since the 2018 report, but it has improved since 2010. In 2010, 26% of children were living in poverty in the state — for the past two years it’s dropped to 23%. The number of children whose parents lack secure employment dropped from 37% to 30%, children living in households with a high housing cost burden dropped from 35% to 28%, and the number of teens not in school and not working dropped from 9% to 7%.
Education remains the state’s weakest indicator in the Kids Count data, but Srivastav said the state’s trends for reading and math proficiency match the national trends.
In education, South Carolina dropped from 41st to 42nd in the national rankings. Most of the data remained the same from the previous report — 53% of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds are not in school, 71% of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 74% of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. High school students not graduating on time dropped by a percentage point from 17% in the 2018 report to 16% in 2019.
“When we actually go down to the data, a 1% difference could even be just rounding. While that’s important because 1% of a population might be several hundred thousand people, it’s overall a consistent, steady state,” Srivastav said.
For children’s health, South Carolina dropped in ranking from 36th to 38th in the nation, going from 9.6% of babies with a low birth weight to 9.7%. The 2018 report shows 4% of children in the state without health insurance while the 2019 report shows 5% — a number that has improved since 2010, when 10% of South Carolina children were without health insurance. Child and teen deaths stayed at 33 per 100,000 and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs stayed at 4%.
South Carolina stayed 37th in the nation for family and community, although it improved in every category compared with the previous 2018 report. Children in single-parent families dropped from 42% to 40%, children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma dropped from 14% to 11%, children living in high-poverty areas dropped from 14% to 12%, and the rate of teen births dropped from 43 in 1,000 to 22 in 1,000. Overall, the rate of teen births has dropped by almost 50% in the last decade — in 2010, 43 in 1,000 teens were giving birth.
“This year’s ranking really just reinforces that there’s still a lot of work to do and that meaningful change takes time,” Srivastav said.