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Arizona ranks toward bottom of states for child well-being, report says

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — A new report shows that while Arizona has made progress in recent years, it still ranks toward the bottom of states for child well-being.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2019 Kids Count profile, released Monday, ranked Arizona 46th overall.

President and CEO Lisa Hamilton said the foundation looks across four areas — family and community indicators, health, education and economic well-being — and uses federal data to compare states.

Arizona placed in the mid-40s for all indicators except health, where it jumped up to No. 35.

“And so that means that when Arizona has focused on particular issues, it is able to make some progress, but there are a number of areas where the state still needs to focus to maker sure that children are thriving,” Hamilton told KTAR News 92.3 FM. 

“The good news is that in many areas, even though the data may not be where we want it to be, Arizona is making progress, and that’s what’s important.”

Hamilton said the burden of high housing costs is one of the things setting Arizona back.

“When families spend more than 30% of their income on housing, it reduces the amount of resources they have to invest in other things, like food or clothing that help meet their children’s basic needs,” she said.

“In Arizona, 32% of children are growing up in households that are spending a disproportionate amount of their income on housing, so making sure that families have access to affordable housing is extremely important.”

Another action Arizona needs to take is increase access to health insurance, reaching the 8% of children without it in the state, Hamilton said.

She also said it’s important that states improve well-being for all children, not just a certain subset of the population.

“Arizona is obviously a diverse state. We see across all of our indicators that there are ethnic and racial disparities, and (we) want to make sure that policymakers ensure that all children, particularly children of color, have the resources that they need,” she said.

While 21% of children in Arizona are growing up in poverty, Hamilton said that number can be reduced simply by making it a priority.

“We’ve been tracking these indicators for 30 years now, and we see that sustained investment year after year is really what moves the needle for child well-being,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report. 

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