A new analysis of data points measuring the well-being of children in Alabama shows that the counties with the most significant improvements in child well-being over the last two decades were those traditionally considered at the bottom of these datasets. However, the long-term impact of the state’s shifts in population, demographics, and available resources could threaten those areas’ progress.
The Alabama Kids Count Data Book reports state trends and county-level data on child well-being across the state. It annually explores more than 70 key indicators across four issue areas: Health, Safety, Education, and Economic Security.
The Montgomery-based, statewide nonprofit VOICES for Alabama’s Children has produced the Alabama Kids Count Data Book annually since 1994.
“The goal of our research is to identify trends in child well-being and measure the long-term impact policies and funding of programs have on children,” said Rhonda Mann, VOICES for Alabama’s Children’s Executive Director.“Often, these statistics appear to move slowly, and the counties whose outcomes are ranked at the top and bottom of these reports rarely change. What’s often overlooked is that the areas with the greatest need are also among the communities reporting the most progress helping children and families get what they need to thrive. State’s leaders’ targeted approach to improving the health, education, safety, and economic security of Alabama’s children shows potential and should be accelerated. We hope state leaders will pay attention to these trends and base their decisions on what the data is telling them.”
Among the statewide highlights included in this year’s report, VOICES for Alabama’s Children observed that:
- Only Marshall County saw its childhood population grow larger compared to its total population, while the rate stayed the same in Franklin County. Every other county in Alabama saw the percentage of children decrease compared to the overall population.
- Five of the six counties with the highest infant mortality rate lack a hospital that provides obstetrical services. Six of the ten counties with the highest infant mortality rate do not have a pediatrician.
- The percentage of college- and career-ready students decreased in 23 Alabama counties from 2020 to 2021. The rate remained virtually unchanged (<+/- one percent) for another 16.
- The number of child abuse or neglect reports more than doubled in at least 27 counties between what was reported in 2020 and 2021. Jefferson County reported a 2400 percent increase in reports, the highest percent increase in the state. Six additional counties — Coffee, Calhoun, Montgomery, Autauga, Baldwin, and Tuscaloosa — reported at least a 1,000 percent increase in 2021.
- Four of the six counties that reduced the percentage of children living in poverty rate the most were in the state’s Blackbelt Region: Crenshaw, Macon, Lowndes, and Wilcox Counties.
- The median household income in Shelby County ($88,444) is nearly $35,000 more than the state’s average. It is over $50,000 more than the median household income in Wilcox County ($31,909), the lowest in the state.
According to the 2022 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, Shelby County ranks number one in the state for overall well-being, followed by Limestone, Lee, Baldwin and Madison counties. Perry County ranks sixty-seventh.
This year’s state Data Book also incorporates national comparisons from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national KIDS COUNT Data Book. Nationally, Alabama ranks 46th, ahead of Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico.
VOICES released this year’s Data Book during its Child Advocacy Day at the State House in Montgomery. More than 100 child advocates from across the state attended. The day included sharing highlights from the 2022 Data Book, updates from lawmakers, as well as a conversation on children’s issues with heads of child-serving state agencies. The Alabama Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics joined VOICES’ Child Advocacy Day as part of its annual lobbying day. The annual event is supported by Children’s of Alabama and The Gratitude Foundation.
Additional findings and a county-by-county breakdown of every indicator included in the report can be viewed at https://alavoices.org/2022-alabama-kids-count/