Outlook improves for state’s children


CASPER — Wyoming ranked 16th in the country for overall children’s well-being in a national report that found the Equality State above average generally, though the state continues to struggle with youth health. 

Last year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report ranked Wyoming 21st; in 2018, Wyoming was 18th. The rankings are based on four broad categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. The data lags somewhat and is typically a year or two old. 

On economic well-being, Wyoming ranked 10th overall. The report found that 14 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty. Roughly one in four have parents who lack secure employment. Seven percent of teens were not in school and not in the workforce. The poverty numbers are higher than Wyoming has posted in the past and are not influenced by the pandemic, as the data predates the virus’ spread here.

Wyoming scored even better on the family and community metric, pulling a ranking of seventh in the nation. The report found that 28 percent of youth live in single-parent households, while just 6 percent live in household where the head of the family doesn’t have a high school diploma. Less than 1 percent lived in high-poverty areas, and the state clocked 21 teen births per 1,000 adolescents. 

Wyoming performed less well on the other two metrics, education and health. The latter category has frequently been a struggle for Wyoming on this report: Last year, the Equality State was ranked 49th overall for health. This year saw some improvement — up to 34th — but the state continues to struggle in marked areas. For instance, 7 percent of the state’s youth lack health insurance, and there were 25 teens deaths per 100,000 residents (though there were just 34 deaths overall; like many of Wyoming’s numbers, the small sample sizes can quickly send numbers skyrocketing or plummeting). 

The state ranked just below the national average on education — 20th overall. Wyoming’s leaders and policymakers have long prided themselves on the state’s strong educational system, which is one of the most robustly funded systems in the country. But the report dinged Wyoming for having a relatively low number — 44 percent — of 3- and 4-year-old kids who are in school (Wyoming does not require early childhood education). It also found that 59 percent of fourth-graders were not proficient in math in 2019, and 63 percent of eighth-graders weren’t proficient in math. Another 18 percent of high schoolers weren’t graduating on time between 2017 and 2018. 

The Kids Count report comes out annually and has routinely placed Wyoming in the mid-to higher-mid tiers of states. Health has been a continued struggle, but the other three categories typically see Wyoming ahead of the pack.

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