Healthcare Economy

For Kids, Living in Mississippi Sucks

Douglas A. McIntyre

It is just as bad being a child living in Mississippi as it is being an adult. The same holds true for most other states in the Deep South, including Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama. The cycle that moves from poor well-being in children to poor well-being in adults, and back again, seems to be unbreakable.

A new study made at the request of the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that:

National data mask a great deal of state-by state and regional variations in child well-being. A state-level examination of the data reveals a hard truth: a child’s chances of thriving depend not just on individual, familial and community characteristics, but also on the state in which she or he is born and raised. States vary considerably in their amount of wealth and other resources. State policy choices also strongly influence children’s chances for success.

The research does not show it, but the pattern probably holds even city by city. For example, Michigan ranks number 31 among the states. Detroit sits within less than 40 miles of some of the richest suburbs in America. Child well-being is better in those suburbs, no doubt.

Many demographic comparisons could be made between the list of child well-being in the new Casey 2013 Data Book and other factors. First among these is poverty. The highest poverty rates by state run, from high to low: Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana. Each has a poverty rate of more than 18%. Coincidentally, among the five worst states on the Casey list are New Mexico, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona and Louisiana. Although its cannot be proved that poverty causes poor child well-being, and certainly poverty is not the only cause, the relationship is persuasive. It does not end there. Poor educational attainment, poor access to good food, and low median income are also plagues throughout these states.

The Casey research does not say as much, but as the overall economic plights of these poor states remains unaddressed, the child welfare problem will as well. No amount of research will change that.