BANGOR, Maine — The greatest threat to children’s well-being in Maine is economic instability, according to the annual national child wellness report known as Kids Count, which was released Tuesday.
Maine’s ranking among the states in children’s economic well-being dropped to 29th in 2014 from 20th last year, which is one of four areas used to rank the well-being of the nation’s children.
“Maine’s economy is not working for our children. Too many kids are living in families where no parent has full-time work, where housing costs take up a large portion of the family budget, or where wages don’t meet the basic needs of a family,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance, in a press release. MCA produces the state-level Maine Kids Count report.
Maine ranked in the top 14 nationally in the other three categories: education, 14th; health, third; and family and community, sixth. Maine ranked 14th overall among the states. It ranked 13th in 2013’s analysis.
Kids Count has measured several socioeconomic and health categories since 1990 and provides national and state-by-state analyses of its data in several categories, meant to give an overall indication of the health and well-being of the nation’s children.
Of the four subcategories in economic well-being, Maine experienced worsened numbers in three of them by as much as three or four percent, and an unchanged number in the fourth. The number of children living in poverty and the number of children whose parents lack secure employment both increased by four percentage points, to 21 and 33 percent, respectively. Children living in households with a high housing cost burden increased three points to 36 percent; and the number of teens not in school and not working remained unchanged at 8 percent.
Even with the increased bad numbers, Maine is within two points of the national average in the three primary areas that had worsened, and the same as the national average in the percentage of teens not in school and not working.
Tying into the economic well-being assessment, two key areas of family and community worsened in Maine: children in single-parent families, which increased from 31 to 34 percent; and children living in high-poverty areas increased from 1 to 3 percent. Nationally, the number of children living in high-poverty areas increased from 9 to 13 percent.
In education, Maine saw marked improvements in the number of eighth-graders not proficient in math, from 70 percent in 2005 to 60 percent in 2013; and the number of high school students not graduating on time, from 24 percent in 2005-06 to 13 percent in 2011-12.
Maine had improvements in all four areas of health, with one of the most striking being the number of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs, which went from 11 percent in 2005-06 to 6 percent in 2011-12, representing 6,000 teens.