The 17th annual Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation says three out of ten child well-being indicators got worse between 2000 and 2004. Nationally, more than 13 million children were living in poverty in 2004, an increase of one million over four years. There were also more low birthweight babies and more children living in jobless households. Study co-author Laura Beavers says Texas ranks last or close to last in all those categories.
"Texas has definite room for improvement on the percent of two-year olds who're immunized. In 2004 only 75 percent of all two-year olds were immunized. This is much lower than the national rate of 84 percent. Also, Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country."
Along with a higher infant mortality rate. Beavers says all these trends are directly related to the fact that Texas also has more uninsured children than any other state, almost double the national average.
"Well there's definitely a connection between access to health insurance and both the low birthweight babies and infant mortality rate. And the preventable diseases that can be addressed through preventive health care can make a big difference."
The news isn't all bad. In education, the study shows Texas students are performing better than the national average in reading and math.
"Fewer of Texas fourth grade students scored below basic in both reading and math. Texas eighth graders ranked 20th in the country, with 28 percent of students scoring below basic in 2005, and that compares with 32 percent nationally."
Despite improvements in education, Texas dropped from 37th to 39th in the overall rankings related to child poverty and childhood health. Beavers says the Casey Foundation gathers and distributes this information nationally to elected officials, decision and policy makers and advocates, in the hope they will use it to meet the needs of more children and make life better for them. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.