South Carolina is an increasingly popular place for people to move but is only the 38th-best place in America for child well-being, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The foundation's annual KIDS COUNT report used 16 indicators from a variety of reports on economic, educational, health, family and community conditions in each state.
South Carolina's overall ranking of 38 is the state's best ever on the report, up one position from its 39th place ranking in 2017.
South Carolina has made strides in some categories, including the percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment (30 percent, down from 37 percent in 2010) and the number of teen births per 1,000 (24, down from 43 in 2010).
But the state is stagnating or falling behind in other areas. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test known as the "Nation's Report Card," South Carolina fourth-graders slipped to 47th place overall in 2017.
The national report showed improvements in education overall are "minimal or nonexistent," besides the high school graduation rate.
Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform and advocacy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said she's hopeful the state's improved economic performance could carry over to the education realm.
"I’m hopeful that this will continue to drive other measures and push them in the right direction."
Of the 16 categories in the report, South Carolina only fared better than the national average in three areas: teens who abuse alcohol or drugs (4 percent in South Carolina, 5 percent nationwide); children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma (12 percent in South Carolina, 14 percent nationwide); and children living in a household with a high housing cost burden (28 percent in South Carolina, 32 percent nationwide).
A key area of improvement in South Carolina was the rate of children who have health insurance. Speer said the majority of the reason for that is because of public health insurance, like Medicaid. The percent of children without it dropped by 5 percent here between 2010 and 2016.
Aditi Srivastav Bussells, research and community impact manager for Children’s Trust of South Carolina, said the report is helpful for advocacy. But it's tough to point to concrete reasons the state worsened in education.
"KIDS COUNT does not tell us how or what is causing that," she said. "It does tell us that we are faring a lot worse than other states that have improved in this area."
Speer said if one state's ranking improves, another has to lose. Mississippi has historically held the 50th slot, but this year it is New Mexico's. Still, she said the country's performance has been steadily getting better year-by-year.
As for the best state to be a child? That would be New Hampshire, which maintained its top ranking from 2017.