Lyon County rates above average in many areas of protecting and providing for its children, according to a new analysis of childhood experience by county.
The report by the nonprofit group Save the Children analyzed data from more than 2,600 counties across the United States. Mark Shriver, Save the Children’s senior vice president for U.S. programs and advocacy, said Kentucky has made strides in improving its infant mortality rate, among other factors.
“One of the other indicators that moves Kentucky up,” he said, “is that Kentucky is fourth in the nation for on-time graduation.”
The analysis looked at infant mortality, child hunger, child poverty, graduation rates, teen pregnancy and COVID-19 vulnerability.
Lyon County was among seven of Kentucky’s 120 counties not rated overall because of insufficient data, but child poverty rate of 20.1% was below the statewide rate (22.3%) and that of all surrounding counties but Marshall. Lyon County’s teen pregnancy rate of 30 per 100,000 population was also lower than all neighboring counties besides Marshall, but was just above the state rate of 27.3.
The local child poverty rate of 18.5% was only a 10th of a point above the statewide rate and lower than Trigg, Crittenden and Livingston counties.
Marshall and Livingston counties had lower COVID-19 vulnerability scores. The score reflects the degree of vulnerability to stresses on human health caused by outbreaks like COVID-19 and range from a low of 0.0 to a high of 1.0. Lyon County’s score was 0.33.
Measures of childhood mortality and graduation rates were incomplete for Lyon County.
Meantime, Oldham County near Louisville is one of the wealthiest in the state and rated third best in the nation.
Shriver said stark disparities remain in much of the state. Across Kentucky, 18.4% of children are food-insecure, compared with only 12% in Oldham County.
Neighboring counties ranked as follows: Marshall, 28th; Trigg, 38; Caldwell, 77; and Livingston, 67. There was insufficient data to compare Crittenden County against others.
While the figures in the report were collected before the coronavirus pandemic, Shriver said children in disadvantaged communities likely are being hardest hit by the crisis.
“We need, as citizens, to demand that we invest in our children, or else we’re going to see these systems of racial and economic injustice persist.”
The report’s findings underscore how racial and economic divides limit opportunities for children of color and for those living in rural communities. Shriver said those differences are magnified when seen at the county level.
“And you see that 30% of the bottom-ranked counties are majority black, despite the fact that they account for 3% of U.S. counties,” he said, “and almost 30% of bottom-ranked counties are majority Native American.”
The report’s authors said the data indicate states that spend more on children, and prioritize legislation to improve conditions for families, tend to have better outcomes and rank higher than states where political leaders aren’t making kids a priority.
Kentucky ranked 28th among the 50 states.
The report is online at SaveTheChildren.org.