New USD KIDS COUNT data shows more South Dakota children living in poverty

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Each year the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports on the needs and conditions of America’s children thanks to data provided by organizations such as The University of South Dakota’s Business Research Bureau. The Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks states on 10 indicators of child well-being and reports on additional variables. The 2009 book illustrates trends from this decade, including statistics showing that more South Dakota children are living in poverty.

According to Carole Cochran, director of South Dakota KIDS COUNT at The University of South Dakota, South Dakota improved on two indicators. Despite remaining higher than the national average on child death rate, South Dakota has changed this indicator for the better and saw a decrease in the percent of high school drop-outs. However, South Dakota’s ranking worsened in eight out of the10 indicators, including low birth weight babies, teen birth rates and the percent of children in poverty. Overall, South Dakota ranks 21st out of 50 states.

"The Data Book is much more than the rankings," says Cochran. "It also provides trend data, demographic information, and statistics to help us understand what we must do to improve." For example, between 2000 and 2007, South Dakota saw an increase of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. Despite this escalation, South Dakota is ranked second in the nation on this indicator.

Even though South Dakota children enjoy the security of parental employment, more children now live in poverty than in the year 2000. In fact, the number of children living in poverty changed from 14 percent in 2000 (27,182 children) to 17 percent (32,511 children) in 2007, representing a 21 percent change for the worse. South Dakota is ranked 26th in the nation. In 2000, the state ranked fourth. Only nine other states saw such a significant percent change for the worse.

Conditions of poverty negatively affect children. Poverty is harshest for vulnerable young children as their working families struggle to meet basic needs. This influences a child’s physical and mental health, the ability to learn, and the development of social and emotional well-being. In 2008, a summit was held to discuss poverty and to seek solutions to build prosperity in South Dakota. Five cornerstones to combat childhood poverty were identified and recommendations were suggested.

South Dakota Voices for Children, who convened the summit, is concerned about the status of South Dakota children living in poverty. Susan Randall, director of the South Dakota Voices for Children, says, "We are dedicated to turning concern about children in poverty into an action plan with results. The costs of poverty are borne by every South Dakotan-- financial costs and tragically the costs of lost human potential. But working together, we can build on the cornerstones and implement policy solutions and community responses that build prosperity for all."

A copy of the National Data Book may be obtained by calling South Dakota KIDS COUNT at (605) 677-6432 or e-mailing kidscount@usd.edu.