An annual study comparing the 50 states based on quality of life for children shows Missouri losing ground slightly, overall. This year’s Kids Count report has Missouri slipping from 26 to 27.

Policy Director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Laura Speer

Policy Director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Laura Speer

Policy Director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Laura Speer, says of areas Missouri lost ground in, most concerning is that 22 percent of children are living in households with incomes below the federal poverty line.

“[That is] about $22,000 for a family of four, and that’s in 2011 and it was an increase over 2005. So there continues to be difficulties for families. They really haven’t recovered with the economy.”

Missouri performs well in some health categories. Child and teen deaths per 100,000 are down from 2005, as well as the number of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs. Speer says a concerning factoid is that the number of low-birthweight babies born in 2010 was up from 2005 to more than 6,200, an increase of 8.2 percent.

“The reason why that’s troubling is at the national level we actually saw a slight decline in that indicator.” Speer says low-birthweight babies are more likely to have developmental challenges difficulties once they reach kindergarten.

The number of children that lack health insurance in Missouri has held steady since 2008 at about 95,000. Speer says the rest of the country has improved. Much debate this year in Missouri has focused on Medicaid expansion, but Speer says that hasn’t been the difference between Missouri and other states in that category.

“What we’re seeing here really is the expansion of the children’s health insurance program across the country as well as states where employers continue to provide health insurance for kids. There’s been better coverage across the country.”

Missouri moved up from 24 to 21 in education. Speer says the state showed improvement in all four areas that the Foundation monitors.

“The percent of children attending preschool, fourth graders reading, eighth grade math and high school graduation all went in a positive direction.”

See the 2013 Kids Count data book here, and see the Missouri profile here (pdf).