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AZ Ranks 47th in Conditions for Kids

While key economic indicators have been improving for Arizona, key indicators for children’s health, education and security continue to rank Arizona at the bottom of the nation, according to this year’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book, published by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.  Arizona ranks 47th overall on the sixteen indicators, just above Nevada, Mississippi, and New Mexico. 

For the second consecutive year, Arizona ranks second worst in the nation on an indicator that predicts future educational and economic success: participation in preschool among three and four-year-old children. More than two out of three children in Arizona miss this opportunity for early education and preparation for school.  Click here to see the Arizona-specific rankings of top indicators.

“The economy can’t improve to full strength and businesses can’t grow high-paying jobs unless Arizona’s children learn the skills to fill those jobs,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance. “Without access to preschool, future generations of employees and employers are losing out.”

Substantial research has shown that investing in quality early education for children, especially those who are disadvantaged, is one of the best investments a society can make.

According to Professor James Heckman, Nobel laureate and Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, the rate of return for investing in early education is 6% to 10% per year.

The economic recovery is bypassing many children in Arizona communities. Home foreclosures have been decreasing since 2009 and Arizona has been adding jobs since 2010. But the child poverty rate has increased each year since 2007, and more than a third of children live in a household where no parent has full time, year-round employment.

“Children are our nation’s most precious resource, as well as our future leaders, employees, citizens and parents,” said Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “The early years of their lives are a critical juncture in their development.  As our economic recovery continues, we cannot lose sight of doing whatever it takes to help kids, particularly kids in low-income families, reach their full potential — and that includes laying a solid foundation from the moment they are born.”

Five-year trends bring some good news for Arizona’s kids. The child and teen death rate continues to drop. In 2006 there were 703 child and teen deaths statewide; in 2010 the number had fallen to 477. High school graduation rates also showed improvement with 75% of Arizona high school students graduating in four years in 2009/2010, up from 70% in 2005/2006.

To view how Arizona ranks in all 16 indicators, including the racial disparities for each indicator, visit the KIDS COUNT website at http://datacenter.kidscount.org.

Also, follow Children’s Action Alliance on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/azchildren and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/KIDSCOUNT and on Twitter @aeckidscount.

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