The annual KIDS COUNT report on the welfare of the country's children tells a mixed story of how California is faring in providing for its kids.
Looking at all measures, the report gives California a relatively low ranking of 38th among 50 states for child well-being, taking into account measures in such areas as health, education and poverty.
The state improved in its health ranking, moving to 14th from 26th place, in part because of the expansion of Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act, according to the report.
But California ranked next to last — 49th out of the 50 states — for economic well-being as measured by children in poverty, parents with secure employment, high housing costs and teens not in school and unemployed. The state placed 46th in that category two years ago and 48th last year.
California's latest near-bottom ranking is troubling, said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, the Oakland-based nonpartisan research and policy organization serving as the umbrella group for children's advocates.
“We have more children living in poverty, and more parents lacking secure employment than we did in 2008,” said Lempert in a news release. There are 2.1 million children living in poverty, and that number has grown by 5 percent since 2008, the start of the recession, the report stated.
As one of the wealthiest states in the country, California “can and should aim to be number one in supporting kids and families,” Lempert said.
According to Children Now, the economic recovery “sidestepped communities of color, leaving African American and Latino children particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of poverty, including diminished school performance and poor health conditions.”
In the area of education, California saw the percentage of children not in preschool grow to 4.4 million in the years 2011 to 2013. It showed improvement in 4th-grade reading proficiency, 8th-grade math proficiency and high school graduation measures.
The group said to improve its ranking in health and other critical areas, California needs to support and expand quality programs that help children thrive.
Source: KIDS COUNT Data Book, Annie E. Casey Foundation