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Kids Count: South Dakota 18th for Child Well-Being, Minnesota Invests to Rank 1st

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has published its 2015 Kids Count Data Book. South Dakota doesn’t come out too badly, ranking 18th overall for child welfare (we’ve held steady at 17th or 18th throughout the Daugaard regime). 19% of our children are in poverty, compared to the national child-poverty rate of 22%. One major factor protecting our kids from poverty is cheap housing: only 20% of our kids live in households with a high housing cost burden, compared with 36% nationwide.

The best state in the Union for kids is Minnesota. They beat us on every index calculated in the Kids Count score. Minnesota particularly overshadows South Dakota in education, ranking sixth compared to South Dakota’s 32nd. By 2013 figures, Minnesota has a higher percentage of kids attending preschool than South Dakota, better fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math test scores, a much lower child and teen death rate (19 per 100K in Minnesota, 24 per 100K nationwide, 35 per 100K in South Dakota, a figure that actually represents improvement from South Dakota’s 46 per 100K in 2009), and a lower percentage of kids in single-parent households.

Minnesota’s top rank isn’t luck; it’s investment:

[Jeremy Hobson]: But then you see Minnesota, for instance, 14% of children there are living below poverty, which is way better than the national average of 22%. So when you see that number, what can you say about what Minnesota has figured out here?

[Patrick McCarthy, CEO, Annie E. Casey Foundation]: There’s a combination of things. We have to remember that some of the factors driving childhood poverty are actually fairly large demographic and macroeconomic trends. At the same time, we do know that states that have made decisions to invest in kids, to invest in kids, invest in early childhood and high-quality pre-school, we see the results of those policy choices. Minnesota has long been a state that has invested heavily in families, and so it’s not surprising that overall their children are doing the best in the country [emphasis mine; Patrick McCarthy, interview with Jeremy Hobson, “Many American Children Still Stuck In Pockets Of Poverty,” Here and Now, 2015.07.21].

How I wish I could hear experts say things like that about South Dakota. How I wish success in South Dakota could be as unsurprising as success in Minnesota.

If we want to surprise the experts and do better at getting kids out of poverty, we have to invest in kids and their parents:

[McCarthy] The best set of policies have to do with simultaneously investing in parents and in their kids, a two-generation strategy. For the parents, pathways to jobs, income supports where that’s necessary, flexibility in the workplace. But for the kids, really, high-quality early childhood education programs, pre-school, and really bearing down on making sure every kid is reading proficiently by the end of third grade [Hobson, 2015.07.21].

Minnesota shows us that family values means valuing families by putting our money where our mouth is.


  1. jerry 2015-07-22 09:06

    It is not easy sometimes to see how far down the ladder we in South Dakota are regarding damned near everything except a bike rally. We get that because of state government investment. There are many ways to get the funding to make our schools better and to see our education professionals get the compensation they should be getting, one way would be to expand Medicaid. This would not only help our children, it would help their families and it would help main street itself. Another way to generate tax to pay for education and child well being would be the legalization of marijuana. The state could grow hemp for commercial use as well as providing that venue for some of the reservation use as well. Then the state would not be so embarrassed as to declaring the combination of the reservations with state numbers into their rosy employment numbers. The other plus would be that D Daugaard would be able to keep his fake surplus in the virtual bank. I don’t think the money exists as it has never ever been seen. We have to take his word and EB-5 Rounds word on this. Remember, these are two of main dudes involved in the disappearance of about 120 million buckeroos that they wanted to pin on Benda. Perhaps that moolah disappeared along with the prosecution of Joop for tax evasion.

  2. SuperSweet 2015-07-22 11:07

    Glad to see the positive benefits of my Minnesota tax dollars. It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who said “education is the most important subject in which we can be engaged.”

  3. Jenny 2015-07-22 14:00

    Very interesting data Cory. At least SD isn’t tied with Mississippi for last place again. I’m wondering why SDs child death rate is quite a bit higher than the national avg. Are they counting suicide on the reservations? Lack of access to mental healthcare in rural areas (not just the reservations) has always been a problem. Again, if SD would expand Medicaid this would undoubtedly help bring down this number. More kids on health insurance means better access to mental health services.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-22 18:39

    Jenny, South Dakota does have the ninth-worst suicide rate in the nation, 18.2 per 100K. The eight states with worse rates are all Western states (worst 3: Montana, Alaska, Utah). But that’s all suicide, not youth specifically.

    According to the American Indian Humanitarian Foundation, the teenage suicide rate on Pine Ridge is 150% the national rate, and infant mortality is 300% the national rate.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-22 23:57

    MN has done so well for children despite Republican opposition. Gov. Dayton really had to fight MN’s House Republican majority to get more money for free universal preschool. He didn’t quite get there because the Republicans were willing to throw thousands of workers out of work by shutting down the state government. Dayton was concerned about the hardships that would create for those families. He accepted need based scholarships for the state’s children.

    Republicans are bleating about tax cuts next year because they’ve already forgotten the lessons of 2008 – that good financial times can come to sudden ends. Dayton has told them there will be no tax cuts absent universal pre-K.

    MN really took off when it had an all Democratic state government. When Republicans got the House majority in 2014 they slowed the growth down. Minnesotans need to throw the Republican bums out and return to greater progress.

    Republicans can be such PITAs.

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