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Pennsylvania Takes "Step Forward" in Child Well-Being Study

The infant mortality rate rose by 7% in Pennsylvania since 2000 but the death rate among children ages 1 to 14 fell by 10%. Those are 2 of the 10 indicators examined in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book that tracks the well-being of children in each state and nationally.

Overall, Pennsylvania ranked 20th in the nation, up from 23rd place in the previous report. Joan Benso, president of the advocacy group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, called it a step in the right direction but "not far enough forward." Pennsylvania had its poorest scores in infant mortality (number 35 in the nation), and the percentage of low-birthweight babies (8.3%), to rank 26th nationally in that category.

The percentage of children living in poverty jumped. 17% of Pennsylvania children are living below the poverty line (a family of four with an income below $21,756) compared to 20% nationwide. "At the same time our rate of child poverty is growing, state policy makers are cutting programs that support low income families. This is fairly counterintuitive," said Benso.

This latest KIDS COUNT report, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, includes 2 new indicators. In Pennsylvania, 29% of children are living in families where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment. "I find it a startling statistic and one that's very worrisome," said Benso. "It portends poorly for Pennsylvania's kids and our economic future." The national rate is 31%.

The other new category is 16 to 19 year olds not attending school nor working. 8% of Pennsylvania's older teens don't go to school or have a job, ranking 16th in the nation.