THE BLOG
01/22/2008 12:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Worst Place to be a Kid -- State Version

A little less than a year ago, I posted "Worst Place to Be a Kid." It described a UNICEF study of 21 industrialized nations. The U.S. was 20th. The U.K. got the honor of being 21st. We were dead last in poverty and, ironically, attained our best rank on provision of education (but, as someone said, we can't be #1 in test scores when we're last in poverty). There are, of course, variations among the states in how well they care for their children and the "Every Child Matters" organization has ranked the states on Overall Child Vulnerability.

The Overall index incorporated percent uninsured children, low birth weight rates, prenatal care, infant mortality rates, child deaths, teen deaths, child welfare spending, child fatalities, crime rates, incarceration rates, juvenile incarceration, teen births, child poverty, impact of taxes and transfers on child poverty, and overall tax burden. At the Web site, you can see a profile of each state on these variables. When combined into the Overall Index, though, the states stack up like this:

Top 25, Bottom 25

1 New Hampshire 50 Mississippi
2 Vermont 49 Louisiana
3 Connecticut 48 New Mexico
4 Massachusetts 47 Oklahoma
5 Maine 46 Texas
6 Minnesota 45 South Carolina
7 Washington 44 Alabama
8 Iowa 43 Arkansas
9 Rhode Island 42 Georgia
10 New Jersey 41 Alaska
11 Wisconsin 40 Arizona
12 Hawaii 39 Wyoming
13 New York 38 North Carolina
14 Utah 37 West Virginia
15 California 36 Tennessee
16 Oregon 35 Nevada
17 North Dakota 34 Florida
18 Michigan 33 Kentucky
19 Nebraska 32 Colorado
20 Kansas 31 South Dakota
21 Pennsylvania 30 Delaware
22 Virginia 29 Indiana
23 Idaho 28 Missouri
24 Montana 27 Maryland
25 Illinois 26 Ohio

Keep in mind that these are ranks, not scores. Ranks sometimes exaggerate differences and someone must rank last. In the final heat of the 100 meter dash at the Olympics, someone will rank last. He is still the 8th fastest human being on the planet that day.

A friend of mind noticed something interesting about the ranks and made a list color-coded in red or blue. Red states voted Republican in the 2004 presidential campaign, blue states Democratic. Of the bottom 25 states, only one, Delaware was a blue state. Eighteen of the top 25 states were blue states with only Iowa, Utah, Nebraska, North Dakota, Kansas, Virginia and Idaho falling into the Republican camp.

What we might be seeing here is a variation on what Rick Perlstein calls e. coli conservatism. If you don't spend enough money on your infrastructure and quality control and the care of your children, your bridges fall down, e.coli invades your spinach and beef, and children suffer a variety of afflictions.