New Jersey is a pretty good place to be a child, unless you’re poor.
The 2015 Kids Count ranking placed New Jersey eighth overall in the nation, largely because of improvements in health care and a continued high ranking in education, where the state is second after Massachusetts.
But the state ranks 26th in economic well-being, down from 16th last year, due to increasing rates of children in poverty and in families that lack secure employment.
The state reduced the percentage of children who live in households with a high housing cost from 47 percent to 44 percent. But that is still higher than the national average of 36 percent.
“The fact is that the economic recovery has bypassed thousands of families, leaving them without the means to provide for their children,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey or ACNJ, which produces the state-level report. The national report is published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The national report ranks states on 16 criteria in four categories. New Jersey improved in all four criteria in child health, including increasing the number of children with health insurance, reducing the number of low-birth-weight babies, child and teen deaths, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.
That improved the state’s rating in that category from 19th last year to sixth this year.
New Jersey dropped slightly in the family and community category from 10th to 12th, largely due to an increase in children in single-parent families and the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas.
The state still ranks second in education, despite a slight increase in the percentage of children not attending preschool and fourth graders not proficient in reading.
Zalkind said the state ranks close to the bottom on affordable housing, and while the state has been building more affordable housing, much of it targets senior citizens, not families.
She said the state also needs more stable jobs with a wage that can support a family.
“There are too many people who don’t have consistent employment,” she said. “That’s the new economy.”
The situation is especially bleak in South Jersey, where an April report by ACNJ ranked Cumberland and Atlantic Counties 21st and 20th in child well-being. Atlantic County had a 60 percent increase in the number of children living in poverty from 2009 to 2013.
Contact: 609-272-7241 DDamico@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDamico