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NH ranked best in U.S. to raise children

State House Bureau Chief

August 17. 2011 9:08PM

CONCORD - New Hampshire ranked first in the nation again last year as a place to raise a child, according to a survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The foundation's annual Kids Count survey placed New Hampshire first for the fourth year in a row. The Granite State was tops in four of 10 separate categories the survey includes. The survey ranked the state highest for its lowest percentage of children in poverty; teen birth rate; teens neither in school nor working, and its highest rate of high school graduation.

Gov. John Lynch praised the findings.

'This ranking matters because it means more New Hampshire children are healthy and receiving the good start they need to succeed than anywhere else in the nation,' he said. Lynch noted the Kids Count findings make it easier for the state to attract new businesses and new workers.

New Hampshire was the only state to rank first in more than one of the key indicators on which the survey is based. It was in the top 10 in every category.

Minnesota ranked second overall in the survey. Neighboring states Massachusetts and Vermont were third and fourth. Maine was 11th overall.

Although New Hampshire ranked best in the nation in child poverty, it saw a steep increase in the category. The rate went from 6 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in the new survey. The change nationally averaged an 18 percent increase in child poverty. The survey defines poverty as a family income of $21,756 for a 2009 family of two adults and two children. Nationally, the number of children living in low-income families is the highest since the early 1990s, the Casey Foundation said.

The state saw no change in the percentage of children living in households with a single parent, at 25 percent, compared to 34 percent nationally.

The state ranked fifth in the nation in the portion of children in homes where no parent has full-time, year round employment. Twenty-four percent of children fit that category in New Hampshire, compared to 31 percent nationally.

The survey found 20,000 children, or 7 percent of the state's youngsters, were in a home where one parent was unemployed in 2010.

Three percent of children were affected by a foreclosure in the past three years. Across the U.S. the figures were 11 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

'To stay number one, we must keep working to help parents earn better jobs, keep investing in children's health care, and continue to help ensure more of our young people stay in school,' Lynch said.

The Casey Foundation urges states to focus on policies that will help move more children into prosperity. They include support for early childhood education and primary school reading programs, better pre-natal care, promoting responsible parenthood, foreclosure mediation programs and better health insurance support.

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