The new “Kids Count” report on the wellbeing of children ranks Nebraska ninth overall, up from tenth place last year.
Laura Speer, spokeswoman for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says Nebraska is in the top ten in several of the key areas of the study and also led the nation in one category.
“Seven percent of high school students don’t graduate in four years in the state of Nebraska, that’s the number-one best rate in the country,” Speer says. “Certainly, it should be acknowledged and the state should be proud.”
Nebraska has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the nation and the state is seeing significant progress in important indicators like economics, education and safety.
“The percent of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs in Nebraska has gone down, it’s now at 6%,” Speer says. “The teen birth rate in Nebraska has also gone down at 22 births per thousand teens. These measures follow a national trend.”
While Nebraska’s in the top ten overall, there are areas where the state could do better. Speer says 16% of Nebraska’s children are living in poverty, an increase of 23% from the 2008 report.
“There’s room for improvement just in terms of the health measures that we track,” Speer says. “Although Nebraska ranks 21st in the health domain, which is about in the middle of the pack compared to some other areas where the state is doing pretty well.”
Nebraska had one of the nation’s highest rates of children living in single-parent families. Also, nine-percent of Nebraska children live in high poverty neighborhoods and more than one in five children live in families where no member of the household has full-time, year-round employment.