Nonprofits Zero to Three and Child Trends just dropped a motherlode of data on the wellbeing of babies and toddlers, on both a state-by-state and national level in the U.S. Their State of Babies Yearbook 2019 delves into data across three broad domains: health, families, and early learning.
In each domain, they’ve gathered analyzed a range of data points that provide a snapshot of how babies and families are doing. Some of the factors are direct measures of policies (such as the percent of income-eligible children who have access to Head Start programs), while others are the more complex result of social, economic, and family circumstances (such as the percent of babies whose parents sing and read to them each day). These factors are summarized in a score for each of the three domains. Here’s a page from the resulting report card for California:
The State of Babies project summarizes each state’s progress in each domain with a score of G (Getting Started), R (Reaching Forward), O (Improving Outcomes), or W (Working Efficiently). In other words, it’s a simple 1-4 scale and a convenient data point to be compared with other factors. So I wanted to see how these indicators of baby and toddler wellbeing compared with basic political and economic factors.
To measure how politically left- or right-leaning each state is, I used data aggregated by Gallup from their 2018 tracking poll, in which respondents were asked whether their political views as liberal, moderate, or conservative. Gallup then creates a “Conservative Advantage” number that is the gap between the percent who identify as conservative and those who identify as liberal. Median household income from the 2015 U.S. Census is used as an indicator of the economic wellbeing of families in each state.
The results are in the chart below. A score of “1” in the State of Babies sections indicates the best conditions for babies, and “4” the worst. For the Conservative Advantage, higher numbers reflect more conservative politics, and lower/negative numbers reflect more liberal politics.
The overall trend is that greater wellbeing for babies and toddlers is associated with both more liberal politics and higher median household incomes. A few other points that stand out at a glance:
- Vermont and Rhode Island both received top State of Babies scores, even though their median household incomes aren’t quite as high as the other states with top scores.
- Iowa looks like an overachiever in baby care, receiving top scores in both Strong Families and Early Learning, while its politics and median incomes are middle-of-the road.
- Conversely, Nevada looks like an underachiever in baby care, receiving the lowest scores on all three measures, while its politics and income are both relatively moderate.
- California is doing well on Good Health and Strong Families, but received the lowest score on Early Learning. The report notes that this “reflects the state’s more burdensome infant care costs as a percentage of single and married parents’ incomes, and its lower percentage of parents who read to and sing songs to their babies daily, when compared to most other states.”
- Baby and toddler wellbeing indicators tend to trend together, but not always. California, North Carolina, Idaho, New Mexico, and Kentucky all received the lowest score in at least one area while receiving the highest score in another.
- Alaska is an outlier in a few ways, presumably because of its unique geography, climate, and culture: it has a high income but is quite conservative, and its Strong Families score is high but the others are middle of the road.
This is just a first read, and there’s a ton more data in the Babies Yearbook 2019, which you can access as an interactive or a PDF. They even provide a toolkit if you want to use the data to ask your state and federal lawmakers to make policy changes.
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About Littldata: At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. This post uses Amazon Affiliate and referral links.
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