Mississippi rises a bit in annual child well-being ranking

JACKSON, Miss. — An annual report shows Mississippi improving its rating in child well-being to 48th, as more parents found jobs, housing costs fell, high school graduation rates improved, and students scored better on tests.

The Kids Count analysis released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation focuses on economic, education, health, family and community trends for children over a roughly six-year period ending in 2016.

It’s the first time in 25 years that Mississippi hasn’t been 49th or 50th in the annual report on child well-being. The state finished ahead of Louisiana and New Mexico this year.

Mississippi still struggles with 30 percent of children living in poverty and more than a quarter living in neighborhoods surrounded by other poor people. The state also has a high share of single-parent families.

“It’s always good to celebrate when you improve,” Mike Clayborne, president of Tupelo’s Create Foundation and a board member for Mississippi Kids Count, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal . “But it illuminates that we have a lot left to be done to get our state where it needs to be.”

For this year’s report, Mississippi showed improvement in 13 of the 16 measures.

“I do think it points to momentum in Mississippi,” said Heather Hanna, assistant research professor at the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center, which houses Mississippi Kids Count.

Mississippi saw the number of students not graduating high school on time drop from 25 percent in 2010-11 to 18 percent in 2015-16. The national average, which also improved, is 16 percent.

Economically, Mississippi saw improvement, with fewer children living in poverty, more parents with secure employment, fewer families having high housing cost burden and fewer teens not in school or working.

Despite continuing efforts, Mississippi saw slightly fewer 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in education programs between 2009-11 and 2014-16.