MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A new report shows disparities in Alabama children’s well-being based on the county they live in, education access and a number of other factors.
The 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book shows the state ranks 47th in the nation for childhood well-being. The nonprofit VOICES for Alabama’s Children publishes the report, using a number of factors to measure well-being.
“For the last three decades we have been tracking indicators in childhood wellbeing, so the health, education, safety and economic well-being of Alabama’s children and families can all be tracked in the Alabama Kids Count Data Book,” VOICES for Alabama’s Children CEO Collier Tynes said.
Education early on is one of the factors that can have big outcomes long-term. The data show less than 24% of fourth-graders are proficient in math and just 14% of eighth-graders are. Secretary of Early Childhood Education Barbara Cooper emphasizes the importance of access to the first-class pre-K program.
“We also know that there are social benefits to this. For example, children who participate are less likely to be absent from school, so truancy is not an issue, less likely to be referred for disciplinary reasons and less likely to be referred for a special-ed referral,” Cooper said.
The report also finds about one in five Alabama children are food insecure, and nearly a quarter live in poverty.
Rebecca Howard with Alabama Arise says repealing the state’s grocery tax could be a step toward improving those economic factors that impact children.
“Currently Alabama has a 4% sales tax on groceries. We’ve estimated through some facts and figures on USDA that it would be about two weeks of groceries families would be able to buy if that grocery tax is repealed,” Howard said.
In a county ranking in the report, Shelby county ranks #1 in childhood well-being and Greene county ranks #67.
The data also shows a need for more mental health care access, with currently just one mental health care provider for every 923 Alabamians.