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National study ranks Oklahoma 46th for overall child well-being

Bonnie Kittle / Unsplash

Every year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation assesses child well-being across the country. The 2024 report ranks Oklahoma 46th overall for the second year in a row.

The Foundation works with state partners to put together the KIDS COUNT Data Book. In Oklahoma, that partner is the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

“These numbers confirm what has long been obvious – Oklahoma is not making the investment it should in the health and well-being of our children,” Shiloh Kantz, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, wrote in a press release.

The study considers various factors, such as education, economics, health and family and community. In all those categories, Oklahoma ranked low.

The state ranked 49th in education, trailed only by New Mexico. Along with the rest of the country, Oklahoma has seen a drop in test scores since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testing shows more than three-fourths of Oklahoma fourth-graders aren’t reading at a proficient level. Among eighth-graders, only 3 out of every 20 scored proficient in math. Between 2019 to 2022, the share of Oklahoma high school students who didn’t graduate on time jumped from 15 percent to 20 percent.

The Casey Foundation report urges the United States to invest in academic readiness.

Oklahoma fared a bit better in economics, where it landed at 39th. Across the state, child poverty has decreased and parental employment has stabilized since last year. But the rate of children living in households with a high housing cost burden increased by 2 percent.

Oklahoma ranked 45th in health, a significant drop from last year’s ranking. Rates of child and teen deaths rose. So did the fraction of children and teens who are overweight or obese

The state saw improvements in family and community indications, although it still ranked 40th in those areas.

To address Oklahoma’s low rankings, the Casey Foundation said the state legislature needs to take action and invest in education.

“For two decades, lawmakers have chosen revenue cuts over meaningful, sustained investments in the shared services that are proven to help our children thrive,” Kantz wrote.” The latest KIDS COUNT results bear out the consequences of those choices. Oklahoma and its elected officials can turn these numbers around, but it will require purposeful action over time to make it happen.”

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Anusha Fathepure is a summer intern at KOSU as part of the Inasmuch Foundation's Community Fellowship Class.
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