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The Worst States for Kids

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Oh, children. When will they learn? Never, it turns out, if they happen to live in one of the states in the U.S. with a poor record of quality of life for kids. In the Foundation for Child Development's latest Child and Youth Well-Being Index , the group looked at 28 indicators (most focusing on children under 18 but some including young adults in their 20s) in seven categories to calculate its state-by-state index. The seven areas include family economic well-being, health, safe/risky behavior, educational attainment, community engagement, social relationships and emotional/spiritual well-being, which were given specific weights to calculate the index, on a scale of -1 to 1.

"This report shows that a strong relationship exists between children's well-being and state policies that drive investments in children," the report says. "The gap between public opinion and public investments in children remains large."

A child's well-being is strongly related to the state where he or she lives, the Foundation for Child Development says in a report.

The study's findings paint a wide spectrum of childhood well-being in the U.S., indicating that "a child's well-being is strongly related to the state where he or she lives."

Among the other key findings:

  • Higher state taxes are better for children. The report found that states with higher tax rates have higher CWI values than states with lower tax rates.
  • Public investments in children matter. Researchers also concluded that the amount of public investment in education and social programs targeted at children is strongly related to CWI values.

In terms of regional differences, the report found that the best states for children tend to be in the Northeast (New Jersey tops the list), while those at the bottom of the list are almost exclusively in the South. Here we count down the 10 worst.

10th-worst state for kids: Kentucky (tie)
Child well-being index score: -0.47
Kentucky leads off the list in a tie for 10th-worst state for children, due in large part to the state's less-than-stellar record in supporting children's health programs. In 2007 state legislators decided to do something about the state's poor record in this area and created the " Blueprint for Kentucky " to promote legislation that better supports young people. After four years in action progress is incremental, and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has made it a priority to expand health coverage to the "over 67,000 Kentucky children who are qualified to receive care through the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program or Medicaid but are not yet enrolled."

10th-worst state for kids: Alaska (tie)
Child well-being index score: -0.47
Tied with Kentucky at number 10, Alaska turns out to be a somewhat inhospitable place for kids. The Foundation for Child Development's report calls out the state for its sixth-lowest education levels for young adults (21.4% of Alaskans ages 25-29 have a bachelor's degree, compared with the national average of 30%), and the state itself is trying to promote better family behaviors to support children in all aspects of their development.