"New study says Shelby County best place in state to be a kid"
Montgomery - Shelby County is the best place to be a child in Alabama, according to a study ranking indicators of child well-being.
The 2010 Kids Count Data Book ranked Shelby No. 1 in the state in a survey weighing factors such as births to unmarried teens, children in single-parent families, child poverty and the high school graduation rate. Shelby County was followed by Blount, Lee, Limestone, Cleburne, St. Clair and Madison as top counties in the state.
Dallas County, in the poverty-stricken Black Belt, ranked last in the state. "The bottom five are Black Belt counties. That is not a surprise to anybody," said Linda Tilly, executive director of Voices for Alabama’s Children.
"When you look down at the bottom (counties) they are the ones that have very few resources for schools, and there is very high unemployment," Tilly said.
Shelby County and its suburban neighborhoods and Dallas County in the heart of the state’s Black Belt are relatively close geographically but are light years apart economically, according to the study. The median household income is $65,408 in Shelby compared to $27,088 in Dallas. In Shelby, 9.9 percent of children live in poverty compares to 52.7 percent in Dallas.
But Tilly said even more affluent areas are demonstrating pressure from the economy. She said child poverty rates have jumped even in some of the more affluent counties.
The study also found a dramatic decrease in the number of licensed child care providers in the state. Between 2000 and 2011 the total number of licensed child care programs in the state decreased by nearly 50 percent while the number of Alabama’s young children in need of care outside of the home increased.
Tilly said overall the numbers represent a mixed bag of progress in some areas tempered with ongoing challenges and the economic pressures of a stagnate economy.
Tilly said births to unmarried teens, first-grade retention rates and child death rates are improving.
"The good news when looking at last year is that the graduation rate from the state increased from 61.7 percent to 65.8 percent," Tilly said. "The news that causes concern is that child poverty rate jumped from 21.1 percent to 24.6 percent. It is extremely alarming that nearly a quarter of our children live in poverty. Research shows that, especially for young children, the negative effects of poverty are long term."
Copyright © SHELBY COUNTY ECONOMIC & INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.