LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Nearly three out of 10 kids are living in poverty in Arkansas, but the number of children without health insurance has gone down, according to a national study released Tuesday that shows how children fare in each state.
The 25th annual Kids Count report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Arkansas 41st in 16 indicators across four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.
The report says that 29 percent of Arkansas children were living in poverty in 2012, up from 25 percent in 2005. Six percent of children lacked health insurance in 2012, down from 9 percent in 2008.
"I think the good news is that Arkansas has made some gains in health care coverage and education over the past year," said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. "What's not so good is that the child poverty rate is 29 percent. Anytime you talk about getting close to three out of 10 kids living in poverty, that's very troublesome and problematic for a lot of different reasons for kids."
But Huddleston added that increased child poverty is a problem across the country. Nationally, the child poverty rate increased from 19 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2012, according to the Kids Count report.
The states with the highest overall child well-being ranking are Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota. The lowest-ranking states are Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.
Arkansas had the biggest improvement in the rate of kids who received health insurance over the 25-year period that the report has been compiled, said Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
"That's something that is really worth lifting up and celebrating. We know that if a child has access to health insurance, they're more likely to get the preventative health care they need," Speer said.
While the increase in health care coverage among kids is something to highlight, Huddleston said many families in Arkansas are still having a hard time climbing out of the recession.
"Even though the country has kind of gradually come out of the recession, it's still going to take a lot for that to show up in the pocketbooks of families," he said.