Utah ranks second as the best overall state for child welfare, according to a new Kids Count Data Book, which measures child well-being across the nation. But nationwide, the book found that children lost important ground in the 1980s.
Last year, Utah ranked ninth.The study was conducted by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. States were judged on eight key indicators: percentage of low birth-weight babies (under 5.5 pounds), infant mortality rate, death rate for children 1-14, violent death rate for teens 15-19, percent of teen out-of-wedlock births, juvenile incarceration rate, the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage of children graduating from high school.
Vermont was ranked first overall.
Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Utah was ranked No. 1 for having the fewest out-of-wedlock teen births, even though the rate increased by 57 percent between 1980 and 1988, which was five times the national increase.
The state also received high marks for a low infant mortality rate (ranked sixth), juvenile incarceration rate (also sixth), percentage of children in poverty (third-lowest in the country).
According to Kids Count, Utah spends $2,454 on each pupil and 37.2 percent of the population are under 18.
It also found that 82.6 percent of the state's pregnant women receive early prenatal care, but 13 percent of Utah children have no health insurance.
While things are looking better for children in Utah, the report sounds a warning about the future of children throughout the United States.
"The Kids Count data show that our nation's children are at greater risk today than at the beginning of the 1980s. Child poverty increased and persists. Births to unmarried teens rose. The chances that a teenager would die a violent death by accident, suicide or murder also increased over the decade.
The study found that black and Hispanic children are more apt to be poor, unmarried teen mothers or high school dropouts. But white children experienced "greater erosion in their status" in the three areas than black or Hispanic children during the 1980s.