Iowa ranks fifth nationally in overall child wellbeing in this year’s Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. But there's still room for improvement.
As a senior associate and fiscal director for the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, Mike Crawford works with the Casey Foundation on its annual report. He says that while Iowa compares very well to other states, when Iowa is compared to itself the picture is less optimistic.
"We have a few items that have really deteriorated over the last few years," he says. "The child death rate has increased. The single-parent family rate has increased. And also, some areas really haven’t increased or decreased, but stagnated."
One area of stagnation is Iowa's child poverty rate, which is at 15 percent. In 2010 the rate was 16 percent. Also, four percent of kids in Iowa lack health insurance, which is the same rate as 2010 and only slightly better than the national average of five percent.
"We need to push to make sure that we have health insurance coverage for all children. And in fact, [having] health coverage for all, everyone in the state of Iowa would be great," he says. "We found that in families, if the adults have health insurance coverage, the children are more likely to have health insurance coverage, too. But at a minimum we should have all children covered. "
The Casey Foundation says health insurance not only leads to better health outcomes for kids, but it also protects families financially.
Perhaps the most dramatic area of improvement in Iowa is that in the past half decade, the number of teen births per 1,000 dropped from 29 to 19. Nationally, the rate dropped from 34 to 22.