Children at Risk

For too many Americans, insecurity starts in childhood.

A startling report, Homeland Insecurity, by the Every Child Matters Education Fund,4 pointed out that as of 2007 (before the current recession made things even worse), 8 million American children were without health insurance, nearly 2 million had parents in prison, and 13 million lived in poverty. More than 3 million were abused and neglected each year. The United States' child abuse death rate is the highest among rich countries, three times as high as Canada's and eleven times as high as Italy's. According to the report, the effects of child abuse cost American taxpayers more than $100 billion annually.

The report suggests that American children don't share “homeland insecurity” equally. Ailis Aaron Wolf, analyzing the report in the Boston Edge, writes,

Living in a “red” state appears to be more hazardous to the health of millions of American children … The factors weighed in the “Homeland Insecurity” ranking include such diverse indicators as inadequate pre-natal care, lack of health care insurance coverage, early death, child abuse, hunger and teen incarceration. Based on a diverse range of eleven child-related statistical measures, nine of the ten top states with the best outcomes for children today are “blue” states.5

Those states included Wisconsin, Iowa, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and top-ranked New Hampshire, with Nebraska being the sole “red” state in the group.

Blue states were defined as those that voted Democratic in the 2004 presidential election, while red states voted Republican. All ten of the states with the worst outcomes were “red” states: Wyoming, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana, and, in last place, Mississippi.

According to Michael R. Petit, the former commissioner of Maine's Department of Human Services and lead author of Homeland Insecurity:

The bottom line here is that where a child lives can be a major factor in that youth's ability to survive and thrive in America. The reason why this is the case is no mystery: “Blue” states tend to tax themselves at significantly higher levels, which makes it possible to reach more children and families with beneficial health, social and education programs. “Red” states overwhelmingly are home to decades-long adherence to anti-government and anti-tax ideology that often runs directly contrary to the needs of healthy children and stable families.6

“Blue” states also tend (with significant “red” exceptions, such as egalitarian Utah and the Dakotas) to have much smaller gaps between rich and poor, a subject we return to in chapter 7. They generally score higher in such key measurements of quality of life as life expectancy, educational levels, and freedom from violent crime, often approaching and sometimes even surpassing western European levels of success.

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