Report: What State Your Baby Lives in Can Make a Big Difference

An extraordinary resource goes live today, highlighting the state-by-state gaps and opportunities facing the youngest Americans — the State of Babies Yearbook: 2019.

ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends find the data, do the research, and tell the story of babies in America — “and the picture isn’t as rosy as you might hope.” Important differences among outcomes — state by state — are identified.

They write: “The state where a baby is born can make a difference in their chances for a strong start in life. While all states have room to grow, some are doing better for their babies than others. For the first time, the State of Babies Yearbook: 2019, an initiative of the Think Babies campaign, provides a snapshot of how our nation’s babies are faring state-by-state. States were compared across 60 indicators and policy domains in three key areas that are essential for a good start in life.”

The full report notes: “There are 12 million infants and toddlers who live in the United States. The foundation we lay for them today is the most important investment we can make for our society tomorrow. Yet the data are clear: What state a baby is born in makes a big difference in their chance for a strong start in life.”

As background, the report notes that:

  • 51% of babies in the U.S. are children of color
  • 45% of U.S. babies live in low-income families

The report seeks to:

  • “Increase policymakers’ awareness of the unique needs of infants, toddlers, and their families”
  • “Garner greater support for child- and family-friendly policies and practices”
  • “Provide early childhood advocates and policymakers with the information they require to advance national and state policies responsive to these needs”

The report outlines how each state fares across its GROW criteria: Getting Started; Good Health; Strong Families; and Positive Early Learning Experiences. It states: “The true picture of the state of America’s babies emerges from the range of conditions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. All states have room to grow in how they support parents in caring for their young children. Yet, some states are more advanced than others in giving babies and their families the chance to overcome adversity and reach their full potential.”

“A state’s lower overall rank should not obscure the fact that in an individual domain, the state may have promising indicators that may reflect initiatives to improve babies’ outcomes. Individual state profiles provide stakeholders with a map of where their support for their babies is lagging behind or forging ahead of other states and the national average. States with higher rankings should not be complacent and those at the lower end should not feel overwhelmed. Rather, each should use this map to identify challenging areas that the state needs to work on and muster the will to give its babies the best start in life.”

Other key points:

  • “Science tells us that these indicators underscore the need to ensure that every baby has equitable opportunities to thrive.”
  • “Research consistently finds negative effects of poverty and racial disparities among young children in low-income families and children of color, caused by differences in access to resources and services as well as contributing historical and social factors.”
  • “The effects of disparities appear early and are critical—within their first two years infants from higher and lower socioeconomic status families already exhibit a 6-month gap in processing skills critical to language development.”

“The United States lags behind other developed nations on several indicators of well-being, particularly in the health area, where the underlying story is told by looking at the wide disparities in infant mortality rates and birth outcomes for children of color.”

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