These Were The Best — And Worst — States For Kids During COVID-19 Pandemic

The hardest-hit states were struggling long before COVID.

Child Protection Ranking

It’s hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since the pandemic really took hold. It feels like we’ve all been stuck in a perpetual March. Except a whole lot has happened, and it’s been hard on everyone, and especially so for people who were already struggling. Children, in particular — the poorest population group in the United States — have struggled through school closures, remote learning, increased food insecurity, poverty, their parent’s unemployment, and carrying a lot of stress about the virus and its impact on their family. Some states have done better than others at supporting the little ones during this time. And some states have made this time a lot worse for them.

According to NBC News, the coronavirus has negatively impacted all kids in some way. But those that live in the Southern states, states that historically are more hostile to social safety nets, welfare, or protecting poor families, have been harder hit. A new report from Save the Children calculated each state’s COVID Child Protection Ranking to quantify which states did more to protect the youngest during this health crisis.

The Child Protection Ranking looked at three factors the organization deemed important to kids, specifically during the coronavirus pandemic. Access to tools and resources needed for remote learning, adequate finances to cover household expenses, and food security were the organization’s measurements for the rankings.

“Having access to enough food and continuing to learn are essential for a child’s healthy growth and development,” the report said. “When a family can’t meet its regular expenses — including housing — it creates a level of stress and trauma that further threatens a child’s ability to thrive. The ranking reveals where hunger, learning loss, and financial stress are most widespread.”

To compile the rankings, the researchers analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s biweekly Household Pulse Survey from Aug. 19 to Dec. 21, 2020. This survey asked participants about their lives during the pandemic. Questions included their views on the vaccine, employment status, food insecurity, schoolwork and internet access, and difficulty paying for basic household expenses.

With all that information, the organization compiled the Child Protection Rankings and determined the rankings.

The States That Were Best For Caring For Kids:

5. Connecticut

4. South Dakota

3. Utah

2. Washington

1. Maine

The States That Did The Poorest Job Caring For Kids:

5. Maryland

4. Oklahoma

3. Kentucky

2. Arkansas

1. Louisiana

In Louisiana, which ranked the worst for kids during the pandemic, the statistics were dire. According to the data, 50% of families struggled to cover basic household expenses. Add to this, 25% of the families didn’t have enough to eat, and 25% also said they didn’t have regular access to the internet or a digital device for kids’ remote school.

According to NBC News, the states that struggled the most during the pandemic had these issues long before the virus came about.

“Childhood poverty rates in Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico were among the nation’s worst, further fueling hardships families are experiencing now,” the news organization reported. “And it’s not just rural areas — the economic crisis has also hit larger cities across the South.”

You can check out the interactive map here, and more information on each of the three key factors that helped fuel the list.