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Despite Improvements, Group Says Texas Is 9th Worst State For Kids

Stella M. Chávez
A new report released today says Texas kids are generally worse off than before the recession.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual study on children’s poverty and well-being today. Last year, Texas performed pretty dismally. Not much has changed in 2015.

The Kids Count survey ranked Texas 41st out of 50 states in terms of overall child well-being. That’s a slight improvement from last year’s placing at No. 43.

The survey looks at factors such as family income, education, health, teen birth rates and children in single-parent households.

Here’s how the state fared in a few categories:

  • Eighth graders scoring below proficient in math – 15th
  • Children living in families where no parent has full-time employment – 17th
  • Children living in high-poverty neighborhoods – 46th
  • Teen Birth Rates – 46th
  • Children without health insurance – 49th

The report says Texas kids are generally worse off than before the recession.
Jennifer Lee is a research associate with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, based in Austin. She says two things in particular would help raise the child well-being rankings for Texas: provide more kids with health insurance and reduce the teen birth rate. 

"Many Texas kids and families are left behind even as the economy grows, " Lee says. "A growing number of Texas children – one in five kids – lives in a high-poverty neighborhood where there are few opportunities in education and where health and safety are at risk. In Texas, too may Latino and African American children lack the opportunities they need to move forward and reach their full potential."

The percentage of uninsured children has improved from 18 percent in 2008 to 13 percent now.

“But we’re still ranked 49th. We’re still one of the worst states in insuring our kids," says Lee.

That means about 900,000 thousand Texas kids without insurance.  And 13 percent is significantly higher than the U.S. average, 7 percent.

Then there’s the teen birth rate. If you’re grading Texas against itself, there has been significant improvement.  

“In the U.S. the teen birth rate is about 26 per 1,000 teens, and in Texas it’s 41 so we’re significantly higher," Lee says.

Within Texas, some things are moving in the right direction. Lee says changing the big picture will be much more difficult.

Kids Count Texas Profile 2015

Read the full report here.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.