New Jersey falls short in a number of areas related to the well being of children, but kids are better off here than in most other states in the U.S., according to a report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The charitable foundation ranks New Jersey at No. 6 in their Kids Count report on how kids are faring in post-pandemic life.

That's despite the Garden State recording worsening numbers in a number of key measures analyzed in the report.


According to the report, New Jersey ranks second nationwide in the category of education. But an astounding 62% of the state's fourth-graders scored below proficient in reading in 2022, and 67% of New Jersey's 8th-graders scored below proficient in math.

Meanwhile, the state experienced a spike in the share of high school students who did not graduate on time, and the share of 3- and 4-year-olds who weren't attending school.

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the pandemic is not the sole cause of lower test scores — educators and researchers have been voicing concerns over this issue for years.

"We know that a strong early care and education system can make a difference in giving our children the educational foundation they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond," said Mary Coogan, president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the state's Kids Count grantee. "New Jersey’s preschool expansion efforts are exemplary. However, to ensure it is continued, partnerships between school districts and community child care centers in expanding preschool must also be strengthened."

According to the report, New Jersey registers the second-best chronic absenteeism rate at 17%. The rate is much higher in a number of districts.

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More than a third of New Jersey children live in households burdened with "high housing costs," the report finds. About a quarter of kids have parents who lack secure employment. New Jersey ranks 26th among the states in the category of economic well-being.

New Jersey is No. 3 in the category of health. The state's statistics haven't shifted much over the years. For example, 4% of children in 2022 were living without health insurance — the same share as in 2019.

In the category of family and community, New Jersey ranks No. 19. Thirty percent of kids live in single-parent families, and 6% are living in high-poverty areas.

The report notes that New Jersey has until the end of September to spend federal pandemic funding that's devoted solely to elementary and secondary school relief. According to the U.S. Department of Education, New Jersey spent 74% of its funding as of March 31.

"These are the dollars that schools could be using to expand or continue using tutoring programs, to have summer programs in place," Coogan said.

New Jersey ranked seventh in the country for child well-being in 2022.

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