Good news for children in Mississippi: you’re no longer in the worst state to be a child. For 24 years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has ranked the 50 states for child well-being. It’s based on 16 indicators, such as how many children have health insurance. Since the rankings began, Mississippi has always been dead last. But this year, it rose to #49, with New Mexico dropping into last place. They say it’s part of an overall trend of improvement in the South, with Mississippi chalking up higher test scores and more kids enrolled in preschool.

I’m glad to hear that things are improving for kids in the South. But I have to say that I’d take these rankings with a grain of salt. A lot of dry figures from test scores and other standardized criteria don’t really tell the story of whether someone has a good childhood or not. When you think back on your childhood, do you rank your well-being by how well you did on a math test? Who’s to say whether a child is better off in preschool, or at home, learning from caring parents? And can you honestly say that a child in Mississippi, growing up on a farm in a loving family isn’t as well off as a kid in Chicago, dodging gang bullets? No, a lot of things go into creating a childhood that gives a kid a good foundation for life. And you’re not likely to find those things on a stack of charts and graphs.

Comments 1-5 of 5

  • Lee H.

    07/03/2013 01:07 PM

    I grew up in Mississippi, on a small farm, with wonderful parents that loved me. I didn't realize how tight the finances were, because they gave me the most important thing, their love.

    I'm doing quite well now, and I have no doubt it's due to my upbringing. I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything.

  • Matt Hunter

    07/03/2013 12:04 AM

    Amen Mike - this coming from a man who definitely had a wonderful south Arkansas childhood, growing up in rural Ouachita County.

  • Mary Kirkland

    07/02/2013 10:34 PM

    Thank you, Governor Huckabee. As a child raised in the south in a poverty-stricken home with eight siblings, I can tell you that statistics aren't everything. How do I know? Because I am also a retired math teacher (28 years in public education), have both bachelor's and master's degrees, both with honors, and am national board certified. And my four sisters? Also teachers, two national board certified, two master's degrees, a whole lot of education in that dirt-poor family. Oh, and the brothers? Just a guy with a doctorate who teaches part-time and is a full-time pastor, a retired Army sergeant, and two hard-working men with some college education. Statistically, you would say my family would never amount to much. But see, we didn't read the statistics, we just worked hard and succeeded. It's the southern way. And by the way, when are the statistics going to start taking into account the standard of living that comes with home-grown vegetables, or the difference in pay that gives the same standard of living when we do our own electrical and plumbing work? We have duct tape and a pocketknife, and we could rule the world if we wanted to. But we're busy catching fireflies and telling stories on the front porch.

  • Judith Spencer

    07/02/2013 07:55 PM

    Amen, Mike. I grew up one of 9 with a single mom after my dad died at 48. Even though we did not have much materially we were truly blessed with lots of love.

  • Karen Darr Morrs

    07/02/2013 07:35 PM

    Amen! I get tired of rankings anyway. let kids be kids while they can. Everything shouldn't be about a test score !

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