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Child Well-Being in Indiana – Time to Keep Advancing

by Tami Silverman, President & CEO of Indiana Youth Institute


Indiana ranks 24th in child well-being, according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing recent child- and family-related data. Indiana Youth Institute leads this important data collection and analysis in Indiana as our state’s KIDS COUNT® Data home.

Every year since 1990, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators across four domains — Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family & Community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. This year, compared to other states, Indiana ranks:

  • 24th in Overall Child Well-Being
  • 31st in Family & Community
  • 29th in Health
  • 16th in Economic Well-Being
  • 13th in Education

These indicators represent the best available data measuring the status of child well-being at the state and national levels. For a more thorough description of the KIDS COUNT index, visit www.aecf.org/resources/the-new-kids-count-index.

Indiana’s overall child well-being rank of 24th in the nation is the state’s highest ranking in 10 years. While recent years have challenged all of us, and in particular our kids, families, and youth workers, opportunities to increase support for Indiana’s youth have still emerged. Now is the time to explore and enhance that progress. Our work, and the work of the thousands of youth workers, educators, and caregivers, is not finished until all children are safe, well-educated, healthy, and supported.

Family & Community: 31st Ranking is unchanged from last year

Indicator of Well-Being Prior Data Current Data How We’re Doing
Children in single-parent families 35% (2019) 33% (2022) Better
Children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma 11% (2019) 10% (2021) Better
Children living in high poverty areas 12% 7% Better
Teen births per 1,000 21% (2019) 17% (2021) Better

Comparison with national trends: The national trends were also better in three of the four indicators. For children in single-parent families, the national trends remained the same while Indiana’s rates improved.

Health: 29th Ranking is up from 31st last year

Indicator of Well-Being Prior Data Current Data How We’re Doing
Low birth-weight babies 8.2% (2019) 8.4% (2021) Worse
Children without health insurance 7% (2019) 6% (2021) Better
Child and teen deaths per 100,000 29 (2019) 37 (2021) Worse
Children and teens (ages 10 to 17) who are overweight or obese 37% (2018-19) 30% (2020-21) Better

Comparison with national trends: Within this domain, Indiana’s trends were consistent with the national trends in all areas above except for overweight and obese children and teens. In that area, Indiana’s trend was better while the national trend was worse. In addition, Indiana’s percentage of children and teens who are overweight or obese (30%) is lower than the national percentage of 33%.

Economic Well-Being: 16th Ranking is up from 19th last year

Indicator of Well-being Prior Data Current Data How We’re Doing
Children in poverty 15% (2019) 16% (2022) Worse
Children whose parents lack secure employment 27% (2019) 27% (2021) Same
Children living in households with a high housing cost burden 21% (2019) 21% (2021) Same
Teens not in school and not working 7% (2019) 6% (2021) Better

Comparison with national trends: With the first indicator of Children living in poverty, Indiana’s percentage went up one percentage point while the national trends remained steady. That being said, Indiana’s overall percentage of children of children living in poverty (16%) remains slightly lower than the national average of 17%. In two categories, Children whose parents lack secure employment and Teens not in school and not working, Indiana performed better than the national trends.

Education: 13th Ranking is up from 17th last year and is Indiana’s highest ranking

Indicator of well-being Prior Data Current Data How We’re Doing
Young children (ages 3 and 4) not in school 60% (2012-16) 60% (2017-21) Same
Fourth graders not proficient in reading 63% (2019) 67% (2022) Worse
Eight graders not proficient in math 63% (2019) 70% (2022) Worse
High school students not graduating on time 13% (2018-9) 9% (2019-20) Better

Comparison with national trends: Indiana performed better than the national trends in the first and fourth data categories. Indiana’s downward trends in the second and third data categories are consistent with national downward trends. Yet with both fourth graders not proficient in reading (IN 67% vs US 68%) and eighth-graders not proficient in math (IN 70% vs. US 74%), Indiana’s students are faring better than national student averages.

It is encouraging when rankings such as these reflect the dedication and hard work of so many who support our children through direct services, support services, and philanthropy. Yet we can see that in many of the data categories, our rankings may be the result of other states facing greater struggles. Nearly all index measures also show that children with the same potential experience disparate outcomes by race and ethnicity. The future success of our state and country depends on our ability to ensure all children have the chance to reach their full potential.

National data mask state and regional variations in child well-being. Unfortunately, a child’s chances of thriving depend not only on individual, family, and community characteristics but also on the state in which they are born and raised. States vary considerably in their wealth and other resources. The Midwest has four states in the top 10 in child well-being, including Minnesota (fifth), Iowa (sixth), Nebraska (eighth) and Wisconsin (10th).

Ranking 24th in child well-being is promising. As our highest ranking in more than a decade, we celebrate the efforts of youth workers and youth-serving organizations across the state. We must keep the positive momentum going. Our kids count on us to keep pushing forward.