Survey: Nevada improves in child welfare, behind national average

LAS VEGAS -- The general welfare of the state's children has improved in the past decade, although teens in Nevada remain more likely than the average teenager nationally to give birth, drop out of high school and die violently, a survey being released Wednesday shows.

Nevada had the second-highest high school dropout percentage in the nation in 2000, according to statistics compiled and published in the annual Kids Count report, a project of the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Arizona led the country with 17 percent, and Nevada and Colorado each had 14 percent, the report said.

In Nevada, improvements were seen in eight of the 10 categories used by the report to measure the quality of children's lives.

The report, which is based on government data, found Nevada had reduced child deaths, child poverty and infant mortality rates.

The only two categories Nevada did not register improvements were in the percentages of low birth-weight babies and single-parent families. The state reported 29 percent of families were headed by a single parent in 2000, compared with 25 percent in 1990.

"The issue for Nevada has always been one of strengths and weaknesses," said Keith Schwer, director of UNLV's The Center for Business and Economic Research, which compiled the information for the Nevada Kids Count Data Book: 2003.

"By looking at this data on a regular basis we're able to benchmark ourselves and see what progress we've made and what we still need to do," Schwer said.

Nevada reported one of its largest drops in the rate of violent teen deaths, which fell from 98 per 100,000 in 1990 to 60 per 100,000 in 2000 for those from age 15 to 19. But the state's rate was higher than the national average of 51 per 100,000 in 2000.

Officials with the state Department of Education said the dropout statistics compiled by Kids Count do not match those gathered from school districts across the state.

"If you see the 14 percent, people might believe that they're all products of Nevada schools," said state Deputy Superintendent Keith Rheault. "My feeling is we're actually importing dropouts from other states."

Rheault said the totals do not match because Kids Count uses census data. He said the state's figures show a dropout rate of 6.3 percent in 2002 and 5 percent in 2001.

The Kids Count report also found:

-- Nevada ranked 27th in the nation for child deaths. Nevada reported 23 deaths per 100,000 children from ages 1 to 14 in 2000. That was down from 36 deaths per 100,000 in 1990 and is slightly higher than the national average of 22 per 100,000 in 2000.

-- Teen births in Nevada dropped from 43 per 100,000 in 1990 to 35 per 100,000 in 2000, ranking the state 41st overall. The national average was 27 births per 100,000 teens in 2000.

-- The state maintained its 7.2 percent rating from 1990 to 2000 for low birth-weight babies, and the national average grew to 7.6 percent from 7 percent in 1990.

-- The number of children living in poverty in Nevada was better than the national average. The state dropped from 16 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2000, which was better than the 17 percent reported nationwide in 2000.


On the Net: Kids Count 2003,


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