THE Annie E. Casey Foundation's sixth annual "Kids Count...

salmagundi

April 26, 1995

THE Annie E. Casey Foundation's sixth annual "Kids Count Data Book" is out, bringing more reasons for concern about American children -- as well as a couple of rays of good news.

Nationally, the proportion of low birth-weight babies has increased by 5 percent since 1985. However, during the same period, the nation's infant mortality rate -- children who die before their first birthday -- declined by 20 percent, from 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births to 8.5 in 1992. Maryland, which at 9.8 deaths per 1,000 live births ranks slightly worse than the national average in infant mortality, experienced an 18 percent decline between 1985 and 1992.

Children between the ages of 1 and 14 fared better, with the death rate for this age group improve 15 percent nationwide between 1985 and 1992. The Maryland rate improved by 5 percent.

That good news does not hold true for violent deaths of teen-agers, as the country saw a 6 percent rise in this category, which includes homicide, suicide and accidents. In four states and in Washington D.C., the increase was more than 30 percent. Maryland's rate of increase was only 12 percent.

The state is doing better than the rest of the nation in curbing the rate of unmarried teen-age pregnancy. Even so, that is little reason for pride: While the national rate of births to unmarried teens rise 44 percent, Maryland's rose only 21 percent -- still a worrisome figure. Meanwhile, the percentage of American families headed by a single parent increased by 17 percent.

There was measurable progress in curbing the high-school dropout rate, with an 11 percent decline nationally and a 9 percent decline in Maryland. That news is tempered by an increase in the proportion of teens who are idle -- neither in school nor working.

The newest "Kids Count Data Book," published this week by the Baltimore-based foundation, provides a yearly score-card, helping policy-makers answer that old question "How am I doing?"

When it comes to kids, it's clear there's plenty of room for improvement.

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