Two new reports out yesterday show that Utah ranks seventh in the nation for child well-being. But that number alone doesn’t tell the full story.
The reports are part of the Kids Count project, produced at the national level by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which also funded a state data book produced by Voices for Utah Children.
They examine childhood health, economic well-being, education, and family criteria like teen pregnancy and poverty rates.
In many ways Utah is doing well. The state improved in 12 out of 16 indicators of child well-being. But Terry Haven, the Deputy Director of Voices for Utah Children, says it’s important to look closely at local level data to get a sense of what’s happening with Utah’s kids.
"When you look at Morgan County, it's only 5.3 percent poverty – child poverty. But when you look at San Juan, it’s 32 percent," Haven says.
The data shows that youth suicide has risen dramatically in recent years. It also shows steady improvements in the number of kids who have health coverage in the state.
Tess Davis analyzes education at Voices for Utah Children. She says the gains that appear in these data books are the result of laws and policies implemented over the past several years. That’s important to keep that in mind with decisions we make now.
"I think you’ll see our education numbers go up in future years reports because of the increased investment in this past legislative session," Davis says.
Terry Haven says reports like this play a key role in creating such policy.
"In order to affect good policy change for kids we have to have good data," Haven says.
Both reports are publicly available. Data came from the Utah Department of Health, State Board of Education, Department of Workforce Service and Department of Human Services, and the Census.