KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey foundation, is an effort to provide state legislators, public officials and child advocates with reliable data, policy recommendations and tools needed to advance sound policies that benefit children and families. The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is the Tennessee KIDS COUNT affiliate, providing county-level data to the KIDS COUNT Data Center, promoting KIDS COUNT data publications, and annually publishing KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee.
William Edwards Deming—a driving force behind the development of Japanese management principles—was known to say “In God we trust. All others bring data.” The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth promotes evidence-based policy, and data is where the evidence is found.
KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee is an annual data book that tracks the status of children by analyzing state- and county-level statistical indicators of child well-being using social, educational, economic and health data. Tennessee's program cooperates with state departments, universities and other organizations to collect information used in the book.
2023 KIDS COUNT® DATA BOOK
State Trends in Child Well-Being
Tennessee Ranks 36th in Child Well-Being, Showing Improvement in Some Areas, Challenges in Others
NASHVILLE — Tennessee ranks 36th in child well-being, according to the 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. While 36th is a familiar spot for the state, evaluating changes in the individual indicators provide a guide for the state to further invest in our children, youth and families. New data included in the report highlights how our country’s lack of affordable and accessible child care short-changes children and causes parents in Tennessee to frequently miss work or even quit their jobs, while those who can find care are paying dearly for it. These child care challenges cost the American economy billions of dollars a year and stymie women professionally.
The state saw its greatest improvement in the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas, which fell 47% between 2012-16 (15%) and 2017-21 (8%). Tennessee also saw an improvement in the percentage of children living in poverty between 2019 and 2021. The 2021 child poverty rate sits at 18%- the lowest rate the state has seen, bringing it nearly in line with the national average of 17%. The state saw an increase in the child and teen death rate between 2019 and 2021, jumping from 32 per 100,000 to 40 per 100,000 compared to a national rate of 30 per 100,000. Since the pandemic, Tennessee has seen an increase in the number and percentage of young people (16 to 19) who are not connected to school and work (1 in 14 youth are disconnected).
“The data contained in this report is valuable to us and all Tennesseans. It serves as a critical guide to support Tennessee as we look at areas we are doing well and how we can bolster that work and where we can come together as a state to do better by our children, youth and families,” said Richard Kennedy, executive director of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Tennessee’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
The Data Book reports too many parents cannot secure child care that is compatible with work schedules and commutes. The Data Book reports that in 2020—21, 12% of children birth to age 5 in Tennessee lived in families in which someone quit, changed, or refused a job because of problems with child care. The National figure is slightly higher than Tennessee’s, 13%. And women are five to eight times more likely than men to experience negative employment consequences
related to caregiving.
Even if parents can find an opening at child care near their home, they often can’t pay for it. Tennessee’s average annual cost of center-based child care for a toddler in was $7,934, 8% of median income for a married couple and 27% of a single mother’s income in the state.
While the cost of care burdens families, child care workers are paid worse than 98% of professions. Median national pay for child care workers was $28,520 per year or $13.71 an hour in 2022, less than the wage for retail ($14.26) and customer service ($18.16) workers.
The failings of the child care market also affect the current and future health of the American economy, costing $122 billion a year in lost earnings, productivity and tax revenue, according to one study. All of these challenges put parents under tremendous stress to meet the dual responsibilities of providing for their families and ensuring their children are safe and nurtured.
Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall.
“A good child care system is essential for kids to thrive and our economy to prosper. But our current approach fails kids, parents, and child care workers by every measure,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Without safe child care they can afford and get to, working parents face impossible choices, affecting not only their families, but their employers as well."
Transitioning from a faltering child care system to creating a flourishing one will take new thinking and investing at the local, state, and national levels. Recommendations in the report include:
● Federal, state, and local governments should invest more in child care. State and local governments should maximize remaining pandemic recovery act dollars to fund needed child care services and capacity. Child care is a part of the critical infrastructure needed for an engaged workforce and a prosperous Tennessee. Innovative solutions to address the cost and availability of care are desperately needed.
● Public and private leaders should work together to improve the infrastructure for home-based child care, beginning by lowering the barriers to entry for potential providers by increasing access to start-up and expansion capital.
● To help young parents, Congress should expand the federal Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, which serves student parents.
2022 KIDS COUNT® DATA BOOK
State Trends in Child Well-Being
Tennessee Sees Minimal Change in Child Well-Being Throughout the Decade
Tennessee ranks 36th in child well-being; expanded support for children and families is needed for the state to see significant gains in future ranking .
Nashville — Newly released data show Tennessee ranks 36th in overall child well-being, according to the 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. However, children in America are in the midst of a mental health crisis, struggling with anxiety and depression at unprecedented levels. The annual report focuses this year on youth mental health, concurring with a recent assessment by the U.S. surgeon general that conditions amount to a youth mental health pandemic.
The report sheds light on the health, economic and other challenges affecting American children as well as how those challenges are more likely to affect children of color. Despite its low rankings nationally, Tennessee has seen a slight improvement in overall child well-being and has seen ranking improvements in some areas. As the pandemic ebbs, it is critical that Tennessee strengthen support for children to ensure positive trends continue. Tennessee’s strongest ranking is in Education, where the state ranks in the median at 25th. While national advances have occurred in education, Tennessee has clearly improved more than average. Recently released 2022 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) results indicate Tennessee continues to move in the right direction.
“The Data Book shows simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent geographic, racial and ethnic disparities,” said Richard Kennedy, executive director of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Tennessee’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
The Data Book reports that children across America, and in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia, were more likely to encounter anxiety or depression during the first year of the COVID-19crisis than previously, with the national figure jumping 26%, from 9.4% of children ages 3-17 (5.8 million kids) to 11.8% (7.3 million) between 2016 and 2020, the year COVID-19 swept across the United States. This increase represents 1.5 million more children who are struggling to make it through the day. Data show nearly one in 10 Tennessee children are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and we are trending in the wrong direction. Tennessee has the opportunity to expand support to help the one in 10 children across the state who are struggling with anxiety or depression get the appropriate care they need.
Racial and ethnic disparities contribute to disproportionately troubling mental health and wellness conditions among children of color. Nine percent of high schoolers overall but 12% of Black students, 13% of students of two or more races and 26% of American Indian or Native Alaskan high schoolers attempted suicide in the year previous to the most recent federal survey. Further, many LGBTQ young people are encountering challenges as they seek mental health support. Among heterosexual high school students of all races and ethnicities, 6% attempted suicide; the share was 23% for gay, lesbian or bisexual students.
Each year, the Data Book presents national and state data from 16 indicators in four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors — and ranks the states according to how children are faring overall. The data in this year’s report are a mix of pre-pandemic and more recent figures and are the latest available.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health in a child’s ability to thrive,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “As our nation continues to navigate the fallout from the COVID crisis, policymakers must do more to ensure all kids have access to the care and support they need to cope and live full lives.” The Casey Foundation calls for lawmakers to heed the surgeon general’s warning and respond by developing programs and policies to ease mental health burdens on children and their families. They urge policymakers to:
- Prioritize meeting kids’ basic needs. Youth who grow up in poverty are two to three times more likely to develop mental health conditions than their peers. Children need a solid foundation of nutritious food, stable housing and safe neighborhoods — and their families need financial stability — to foster positive mental health and wellness.
- Ensure every child has access to the mental health care they need, when and where they need it. Schools should increase the presence of social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals on staff and strive to meet the 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors recommended by the American School Counselor Association, and they can work with local health care providers and local and state governments to make additional federal resources available and coordinate treatment.
- Bolster mental health care that takes into account young people’s experiences and identities. It should be trauma-informed — designed to promote a child’s healing and emotional security — and culturally relevant to the child’s life. It should be informed by the latest evidence and research and should be geared toward early intervention, which can be especially important in the absence of a formal diagnosis of mental illness.
Tennessee Ranks in the Bottom Half for Child Well-Being Nationally
Data Across 50 States Show Struggles with Tennessee Child Well-Being Prior to Pandemic, But Hopes for Recovery Remain, Annie E. Casey Foundation Finds
NASHVILLE —Tennessee was performing well on high school graduation rate immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic but was falling short on percent children living in poverty and other measures, putting the Volunteer State in the bottom half nationally across four key domains of child well-being. That’s according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families have fared between the Great Recession and the COVID-19 crisis.
This year’s Data Book shows nearly a decade of progress could be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic unless policymakers act boldly to sustain the beginnings of a recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Despite its low rankings nationally, over the last decade Tennessee has seen an improvement in child well-being. As the pandemic t is critical that Tennessee strengthens support for children to ensure positive trends continue.
“This is a pivotal time for Tennessee and we need to invest in our children in a strong, equitable and sustainable way,” said Richard Kennedy, executive director of Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Tennessee’s member of the KIDS COUNT network.
The Data Book shows simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities.
Sixteen indicators measuring four domains economic wellbeing, education, health, and family and community context are used by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in each year’s Data Book to assess child well-being. The annual KIDS COUNT data and rankings represent the most recent information available but do not capture the impact of the past year:
● ECONOMIC WELLBEING: In 2019, one in five children lived in households with an income below the poverty line. Though higher than the national average, this percentage has decreased by 23% over the past decade.
● EDUCATION: In 2019, 60% of young children were not in school. This percentage has remained consistent in Tennessee, fluctuating little throughout the last decade.
● AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: In 2019, 80,000 Tennessee children did not have health insurance. Many of these children may be eligible for TennCare or CHIP. The year prior there were 55,000 uninsured children in Tennessee were eligible for coverage through one of these programs.
● FAMILY AND COMMUNITY CONTEXT: In 2019, Tennessee experienced one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation. Tennessee’s teen birth rate is 34% higher than the national average.
Survey data from the last year add to the story of Tennessee children and families in this moment:
● During the pandemic, in 2020, 23% of adults in Tennessee with children in the household had little to no confidence in their ability to pay their next mortgage or rent payment. However, by March 2021, this figure had fallen to 13%, suggesting the beginnings of a recovery. Although confidence is increasing, Black or African American Tennesseans reporting a lack of confidence in 2021.
● Tennessee has seen great improvement in children’s access to internet and digital devices for schooling. In 2020, more than one in five children did not have access. By 2021 that number has been reduced to 13%.
● Despite improving indicators, nearly in adults in Tennessee with children in the household reported feeling down depressed or helpless in 2021 a number remain unchanged since 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is the most extraordinary crisis to hit families in decades,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Deliberate policy decisions can help them recover, and we’re already seeing the beginnings of that. Policymakers should use this moment to repair the damage the pandemic has caused — and to address long-standing inequities it has exacerbated.”
Investing in children, families and communities is a priority to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. Several of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s suggestions have already been enacted in the American Rescue Plan, and additional recommendations include:
● Congress should make the expansion of the child tax credit permanent. The child tax credit has long had bipartisan support, so lawmakers should find common cause and ensure the largest one-year drop ever in child poverty is not followed by a surge.
● State and local governments should prioritize the recovery of hard-hit communities of color.
● States should expand income support that helps families care for their children. Permanently extending unemployment insurance eligibility to contract, gig and other workers and expanding state tax credits would benefit parents and children.
● States that have not done so should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan offers incentives to do so.
● States should strengthen public schools and pathways to postsecondary education and training.
The 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book will be available June 21 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
About Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth
The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is an independent state agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to lead systems improvement for all children and families through data-driven advocacy, education and collaboration. Information on the agency is available at www.tn.gov/tccy.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
New Child Well-Being Report Focuses on Challenges Rural Counties Face
Profiles Released with Report Rank Counties from Williamson to Davidson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The differing challenges faced by Tennessee’s urban and rural counties, as well as those that are shared, are explored in KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee, released today. This report, produced by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the Annie E. Casey Foundation Tennessee KIDS COUNT® partner, is released in conjunction with county profiles for all 95 Tennessee counties. The profiles include substantial county-level data and county ranks in important areas affecting child development: economic well-being, education, health and family, and community. The profiles also list county measures on 38 indicators.
“The inauguration of a new governor always brings with it a change in priorities and a new way of looking at old problems,” said TCCY Executive Director Richard Kennedy. “Governor Lee has put a focus on some of the state’s most economically-challenged rural counties, and TCCY has disaggregated as much data as possible by rural status in the report to help identify policy priorities for those areas.”
The counties ranked in the top 10 are Williamson, Sumner, Wilson, Overton, Washington, Montgomery, Blount, Rutherford and Smith. The most challenged are Hardeman, Lake, Union, Shelby, Hancock, Haywood, Madison, Clay, Cocke and Davidson. Individual county ranks, especially those for counties with fewer residents may vary greatly from last year as small changes in some measures used to determine the rates, such as child deaths, may have an outsize effect.
Tennessee’s Growing Child Population: More Reasons to Focus on Improving Child Well-Being Today
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The well-being of Tennessee children has improved in many areas in the last 30 years, according to information in the KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Despite having been ranked in the 40s in earlier years, the state’s overall rankings in recent years have hovered in the mid-30s, including its ranking of 36th in the 2019 report.
“While changes in the way the data are collected limit our ability to compare this year’s ranking to older ones, TCCY is pleased Tennessee now ranks better than it did in the early days of its participation in KIDS COUNT when the state ranking was much nearer the bottom,” said Richard Kennedy, Executive Director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the state’s KIDS COUNT affiliate.
Tennessee is among the top quarter of states with the greatest increase in the number of children between 1990 and 2017.
“Tennessee’s 1.5 million children are each born with potential for success if given the opportunities and support needed to nurture their growth,” said Kennedy. “The state’s future relies on them.”
The 2019 KIDS COUNT® Data Book will be available at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook. The 2019 KIDS COUNT® Data Book will be available June 17 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook.
Tennessee Shows Reduction in the Number of Children Living in Concentrated Poverty
One of 29 States Nationwide to Show Progress in Child Poverty Rate According to New Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The percentage of Tennessee children living in areas of concentrated poverty fell 7% between 2013 and 2017, according to “Children Living in High Poverty, Low-Opportunity Neighborhoods,” a new KIDS COUNT® data snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Using the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the snapshot examines where concentrated poverty has worsened across the country despite a long period of national economic expansion.
Living in a neighborhood with a high level of concentrated poverty, in addition to putting children at risk from environmental exposure and reduced opportunities, can cause chronic stress and trauma. The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the Tennessee KIDS COUNT affiliate, partners with other state and private agencies through the state’s Building Strong Brains Tennessee strategy to empower all Tennesseans to respond to childhood adverse experiences.
The 200,000 Tennessee children living in concentrated poverty would nearly fill Neyland Stadium twice and make up almost one of every eight children in the state.
The report is available at http://bit.ly/2mqvsfK.
Tennessee Missing Opportunities to Give Young Adult Parents and Their Kids a Boost
New Casey Foundation report illuminates needs and barriers facing Tennessee’s young parents and their children
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With limited access to opportunities to advance their education and find family-sustaining jobs, Tennessee’s 75,000 young adult parents face hurdles to support their children and fulfill their own potential, according to Opening Doors for Young Parents, the latest KIDS COUNT® policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The fifty-state report reveals that, at 13 percent, Tennessee is above the national average (10 percent) of youth ages 18 to 24 who are also young parents.
“Becoming a parent is life-changing at any age,” said Rose Naccarato, KIDS COUNT director at the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, “but young parents are less likely to have
finished their education or found a long-term career and so they have unique challenges to their time and finances.”
Opening Doors for Young Parents is available at https://www.aecf.org/opening-doors-for-young-parents.
Director of Data, Communication and Impact