New Hampshire rated No. 1 for Kids

"Kids Count" rates NH number one

New Hampshire has regained its standing as the nation's best place to raise children, according to a survey released yesterday.

State-by-state Kids Count report cards have been filed annually for 19 years based on Census Bureau statistics in 10 categories, such as low birth weight, children in single-parent households, high school dropouts and infant mortality.

Last year, New Hampshire was displaced by Minnesota for top spot in the survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation based in Baltimore, Md.

Faring well when measured against other states is a point of pride, but some of the survey numbers still show cause for concern and room for improvement, said Ellen Fineberg, executive director of the Children's Alliance of New Hampshire.

"We've had good public policy and dynamic public-private partnerships," Fineberg said.

"There are areas that our state excels in, and we really set the standard nationally for how the well-being of children can look," she said. "And then there are areas we need to improve."

The state's rising rate of children living in poverty is a problem advocates need to attack, she said.

From 2000 to 2006, New Hampshire's child poverty rate increased from 6 percent to 10 percent.

"Four percentage points is a lot," said Fineberg, taking little solace in Mississippi's lowly standing at 30 percent.

"It's alarming that our poverty rate continues to grow," she said. "We're number one nationally, and that poverty rate is 10 percent; that's pretty scary."

That 10 percent translates into approximately 28,000 economically poor children under 18 in New Hampshire. That figure is based on the 2006 federal standard for poverty, a family of two adults and two children living in a household with an income of $20,444.

The state struggles in that category, experts agree, because the cost of living in New England is so high.

Fineberg credited the work of the New Hampshire Healthy Kids program with helping the state achieve the highest rate of insured children in the country: 94 percent.

New Hampshire again reduced its high school dropout rate from last year, going from 6 percent to 4 percent.

New Hampshire continues to lead the way with the fewest number of births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. That number has fallen significantly in recent years, from 23 births per 1,000 teens in 2000 to 18 per 1,000 in the latest statistics.

Kids Count measures of child well-being in 10 categories: percent of low birth-weight babies; infant mortality rate; child death rate; teen death rate; teen birth rate; high school dropout rate; teens not in school or working; children in families in which no parent has full-time, year-round employment; children in poverty; and children in single-parent families.

The Union Leader

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