Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Oh, to be young and in New Hampshire

Where's the very best, tip-top place in the U.S. to spend your childhood? If you said New Hampshire, you're ... well, you're right, but you've probably already read about the new Kids Count report put out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Or else you're the governor of New Hampshire.

The report tabulated looked at such child-well-being factors as infant, child, and teen deaths; child poverty; teenage motherhood; and high-school dropout rates. And the findings for the nation at large look pretty good. Improvement has been seen in all the above-mentioned areas, and the only negative trend was an increase in dangerously underweight babies. Otherwise, being an American child is looking pretty darn good.

Especially if you're in New Hampshire, which was ranked first for children's welfare among the fifty states. Rounding out the Top 10 were the great states of Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Jersey, Nebraska, Washington and Maine. And the places where youth is most mispent? Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana and, coming in dead last, Mississippi.

A look at the U.S. Census Web site confirms that New Hampshire is a fine enough place grow up. It ranks 50th in infant mortality, 49th in violent crime, 49th in unemployment, 45th in motor vehicle deaths. Interestingly, it also ranks first in the nation in "retail sales per household." Which makes me think there are a lot of very happy teenage girls tipping the scale in the state's favor.

All joking aside, it's nothing but good news to read that infant mortality has fallen by 22 percent nationwide, deaths among kids 14 and under by 23 percent, teen deaths by 24 percent, teenage births by 19 percent, high school dropouts by 10 percent. May those trends continue. It's good news, too, to read that only 16.9 percent of American children live in poverty ... and appalling to think that any do. May the next Kids Count report find that statistic wiped out entirely.

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