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Indiana’s Child Well-Being: A Mixed Bag in 2024 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Just as Indiana’s children are coming home with their final report cards of the school year, Indiana’s adults have received its annual report card on child wellbeing in our state. According to the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a comprehensive, 50 state annual report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation offering National rankings on various indicators of child wellbeing, Indiana ranked 27th overall. While we have made progress in supporting our kids in some areas, and excel in others, this report shows our state having a number of indicators with room for improvement. Indiana Youth Institute, Indiana’s member of the KIDS COUNT national network, highlights a few data from this year’s report.

Bright Spots for Hoosier Kids

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana has seen some positive trends in recent years.

  • Parental Employment: From 2019 to 2022, 75% of Indiana parents had full-time secure employment, surpassing both the national average and that of neighboring states like Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.
  • Housing Costs: In 2022, only 22% of Indiana children lived in households facing a high housing cost burden (spending 30% or more of their income on housing expenses), compared to 30% nationally.
  • Teen Engagement: The percentage of Hoosier teens aged 16 to 19 who were either enrolled in school or employed rose to 95% in 2022 from 93% in 2019.
  • Health Insurance: Only 5% of Indiana children under 19 were uninsured, with the state achieving the fifth-highest decrease in uninsured children nationally between 2019 and 2022, a 29% improvement.

Indiana has significant opportunities and challenges ahead in supporting the well-being of our children.  We should celebrate the progress we have made, especially in economic well-being areas such as parental employment rates and housing affordability, and we must acknowledge the disparities that persist for our kids. Every child in Indiana should have access to quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances. By addressing these disparities, we not only invest in the future of our children but also in the economic prosperity of our state.

Educational Challenges

While there are positive trends, the report also underscores significant educational challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing issues, leading to substantial learning losses. Here are some key findings from the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Math Proficiency: In 2022, only 30% of Indiana eighth graders performed at or above the NAEP proficient level in math, an 11% decrease from 2019, ranking Indiana 11th nationally.
  • Reading Proficiency: Only one-third of Indiana fourth graders were proficient in reading, down from 37% in 2019.
  • Disparities in Scores: Black fourth graders had average reading scores 23 points lower than white students. Students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) had scores 18 points lower than those not eligible. Black eighth graders had math scores 31 points lower than white students, and Hispanic students were 19 points lower.
  • Chronic Absence: Chronic absence rates were highest among Black (41%) and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (33%) students. Additionally, 31% of students with disabilities and 26% of English learners were chronically absent.

“Kids of all ages and grades must have what they need to learn each day, such as enough food and sleep and a safe way to get to school, as well as the additional resources they might need to perform at their highest potential and thrive, like tutoring and mental health services,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Our policies and priorities have not focused on these factors in preparing young people for the economy, short-changing a whole generation.”

Economic Implications

The report also stresses that the pandemic alone is not responsible for declining test scores. Long-standing issues have persisted, with U.S. students lagging behind their peers in high-level reading, math, and digital problem-solving skills crucial for today’s competitive global economy. The economic impact of this educational deficit is profound, with potential losses up to $31 trillion in U.S. economic activity.

Recommendations for Improvement

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recommends several measures to improve student outcomes:

  • Ensure students have access to low- or no-cost meals, reliable internet, a place to study, and time with friends, teachers, and counselors.
  • Expand access to intensive tutoring for students who are behind in their classes and missing academic milestones.
  • Utilize all allocated pandemic relief funding to prioritize the well-being of students.
  • Address chronic absence positively and improve attendance tracking and data collection to inform future decision-making.


The 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book highlights both progress and persistent challenges in Indiana’s efforts to improve child well-being. While economic indicators show promising trends, significant disparities in education remain. By addressing these issues, Indiana can ensure a brighter future for its children and the state’s economic prosperity.

For more information, visit the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book at www.aecf.org and the Indiana Youth Institute at www.iyi.org.