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Study: child poverty is rising in BV, teen pregnancy rates fall

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Iowa Kids Count coalition has just released its annual report on Trends in Well-Being of Iowa Children. The study draws key statistics from various state government departments, and compared the most recent figures, for 2007, to those of 2000. From education scores to poverty rates to health immunizations and teen births, the study aims to produce a snapshot of how the state's kids are doing.

Within the study is plenty of telling data on Buena Vista County children. Child abuse cases increased markedly so far this decade, high school grduation rate slipped slightly, and measurements of child poverty leaped up locally. Among the good news, reading test scores increased in the county, teen births declined, and health measures were generally positive.

Here are the local results for the 2007 study:

Child Abuse and Neglect - Based on figures from the Iowa Dept. of Human Services, Buena Vista County is below state but above national averages on abuse cases. In 2007 there were 78 confirmed abuse or neglect cases in the county, a 50 percent increase as compared to 2000. That equals a case rate of 16 children harmed per 1,000 children 17 and under. The statewide rate is 19 cases per thousand, while the national rate is 12.3. Emphasis on public reporting of abuse may vary from year to year and area to area.

Child Immunization - Based on 2007 assesments by the Iowa Dept. of Public Health, an estimated 71.4 percent of Buena Vista County children were fully immunized by age 24 months, down from 85 percent in 2000. This is well below the state figure of 88.4 percent and the national rate of 76.4 percent.

Child Poverty - Almost 15 percent of all children 17 and under in Buena Vista County were considered to be living below poverty level in households in 2005 (the most recent figures available), a nearly 20 percent increase from 12.3 percent in 2000. That equals 675 children in poverty situations for the county, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. The state rate is lower at 13.9 percent, but the national rate is much higher at 18.5 percent.

Children Receiving WIC - In Buena Vista County, 595 children age birth to 4 qualified for the Women, Infants and Children benefits, or over 45 percent of all children in that age group. This was a slight increase from 2000, according to the Dept. of Health - and vastly above the state figure of 27 percent and the national 30 percent.

Children on the "Food Stamp" programs - In a shocking increase, the number of people on food assistance in Buena Vista County rose 81.9 percent from 2000-2007, while the state increase was even higher at 90 percent. The national increase was just 43 percent. In BV County, over 1,300 people receive food stamp help, or 6.6 percent of the population.

Children on Free Lunch Programs - Buena Vista County had the fifth highest rate of children in need of free or reduced-price school lunch programs among the 99 counties in 2007. At 47.1 percent, nearly half of all students qualified for the low-income help - nearly 1,800 students. That is well above the state's 32 percent and national 36 percent. In 2000, only 36 percent of local students qualified - an increase of almost 30 percent in seven years. The neighboring counties saw even more rapid increases from 2000-2007 - 47.8 percent in Cherokee County, 36.6 percent in Clay County. Others such as Pocahontas, Sac and Ida Counties saw very little increase in qualified students.

High School Graduation - Buena Vista County's graduation rate slipped from 91.2 percent in 2000 to 89.8 percent in 2007, according to the Iowa Department of Education. This is below the state figure of 90.5 percent, but still above the national 74.8 percent.

Infant Mortality - Zero deaths were recorded in 2007. Statewide, there are 5.5 deaths per thousand infants, nationally almost 7 deaths per thousand.

Low Birth Weight - Of 289 births in Buena Vista County in 2007, 6.6 percent of newborns weighed in at 5.5 pounds or less. That is an increase from 5.2 percent in 2000. It is right at state average, and slightly below national average.

Prenatal Care - In Buena Vista County, almost 81 percent of pregnant women received prenatal health care in 2007, up from 78 percent in 2000. The local rate is still below both state and national figures, however.

Math Test Scores - 75.7 percent of Buena VIsta County students in 11th grade in 2007 were proficient in math testing, a slight increase from 2000. Students in 4th and 8th grade testing were slightly lower than in 2000. Statewide, a significantly higher number of students at each level scored at proficient level, but BV students were considerably above the national average of only 60 percent proficient at each grade level.

Reading Test Scores - In Buena Vista County, student reading test proficiency jumped up 9 percent for 4th grade, 5 percent for 8th grade and 6 percent for 11th grade in 2007 as compared to 2000, with almost 75 percent of high school juniors scoring proficient. These remain slightly below statewide proficiency rates, but are markedly above national rates.

Teen Births - Buena Vista County had 28 births to juvenile girls in 2007 (23 to unmarried mothers), compared to 33 in 2000. For the year, 3.3 percent of all 15-19 age girls in the county gave birth - right at state average but below the 4.2 percent national rate.

Teen Death - Zero teen deaths were recorded in the county in 2007. Statewide, 53 teens per 100,000 died, and nationally, 64 per 100,000.

Unemployment - The jobless rate in Buena Vista County jumped drastically this decade for workers age 16 and up. In 2007, 340 were jobless, up 54.4 percent as compared to 2000 (from 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent unemployment.) The area still fares better than the state (3.8 percent) and nation (4.6 percent), according to the Department of Labor.

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