Traditionally, New Jersey has enjoyed a reputation for corruption, high taxes and Jersey Shore culture. But now New Jersey also is garnering a reputation for something else: the state is a great place to raise a kid.
According to the latest Kids Count report that studies family health, financial factors, and educational achievement, New Jersey is the fourth best state in the nation to raise children, climbing up one spot from last year because of its gains in the classroom.
"I've always thought New Jersey has gotten a bad rap...I grew up here and my kids will grow up here too," said Christina Terry, a Montclair resident. "The preschool experience has been really good."
Overall, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s latest KIDS COUNT® Data Book shows both promising progress and discouraging setbacks for the nation’s children: While their academic achievement and health improved in most states, their economic well-being continued to decline.
Over the period of roughly 2005 to 2011, the improvements in children’s health and education include a 20 percent drop in the number of kids without health insurance; a 16 percent decline in the child and teen death rate; an 11 percent reduction in the rate of high school students not graduating in four years; and an 8 percent decrease in the proportion of eighth-graders scoring less than proficient in math.
New Jersey's students performed better than those in other states when it comes to proficiency on reading and math tests, preschool attendance, and number of students who graduate high school on schedule.
Indeed, New Jersey ranked second for its educational achievements in 2010 and 2011, behind Massachusetts, the report said.
The Garden State also rated fifth in the nation on the Kids Count health index, due to the state's low mortality rates among kids and teens. And, in another positive citation, only six percent of New Jersey's teenagers were reported as using alcohol or drugs.
On the negative side, though, some 14 percent of children live in poverty in New Jersey. Across the country, more children are living in poverty now than in 2005 in 43 states.
Even so, the Kids Count report presents a fairly positive picture, with gains in children's education and health despite economic declines.