A decrease in the number of children without health insurance helped South Carolina achieve its highest-ever ranking in an annual nationwide survey of child well-being, though data shows the state continues to struggle with education issues.
South Carolina ranked 38th in the nation in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2018 Kids Count Data Book report (.pdf). The state ranked 36th in children’s health, with the 4%, or 44,000 of its 1 million children, without health insurance representing a 51% decrease in that number since 2010.
Those numbers were in line with nationwide figures. Four percent, or 3.3 million, children across the country lacked health insurance in 2016 — 2.6 million fewer than in 2010.
“We are seeing incremental improvements over time, and this shows us that the investments we are making in children, families and communities are adding up,” Children’s Trust of South Carolina CEO Sue Williams said in a news release. “Much of this success is because South Carolina parents, community leaders and state and federal legislators have long advocated for the well-being of kids and implemented programs, like children’s health insurance, to ensure that children have opportunities to thrive.”
The state ranked 41st in education, with 74% of eighth graders lacking proficiency in math and 71% of fourth graders lacking proficiency in reading. Slight gains were made from 2013-15 to 2014-16 in the percentage of 3- and 4-year-old attending preschool, though 63,000 children that age did not attend school in 2016, and more S.C. high school students are graduating on time. In the 2015-16 school year, 17% of students did not graduate on time, down from 26% in 2010-11.
South Carolina ranked 34th in child economic well-being and 37th in family and community well-being. Twenty-three percent, or 249,000, of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2016, and 20,000 teenagers were not working or in school. The study found 41% of S.C. children lived in single-parent households and 13% in high-poverty areas.
Births to S.C. teen parents fell to 24 in every 1,000 in 2016.
The report said more than 1 million children under age 5 were not counted by the 2010 U.S. Census, potentially affecting funding for state programs.
“If South Carolina is to continue to rise in the ranks, we must continue to invest in communities and support families,” Williams said. “An accurate census count will be an important step to securing that future.”