Shouldn't South Carolinians be tired by now of the old catchphrase, "Thank God for Mississippi"?
This year, South Carolina ranked 46th -- again -- in the annual Kids Count report on children's well-being. The state ranked ahead of only Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana and, yes, Mississippi.
Sadly, though, while the state improved in some categories, it slipped back in several others. Its worst ranking was for the percentage of children in single-parent families, 48th nationally. A dismaying 40 percent of children lived in such homes in 2006, up from 35 percent in 2000.
South Carolina ranks in the bottom 10 states in seven of 10 indicators. Conditions have worsened in half of those categories since the last survey.
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In addition to ranking 48th in the percentage of children in single-parent families, the state ranked 47th in both its infant mortality rate and percentage of low birth weight babies. It ranked 43rd in the percentage of teens not attending school and not working; 42nd in teen birth rate; 40th in the percentage of children in poverty; 38th in both teen death rate and child death rate; and 36th in the percentage of teens who are high school dropouts.
This, of course, is just one survey. Perhaps biases in the way statistics were compiled made South Carolina look worse than it actually is in some categories.
Nonetheless, the composite picture is a dreadful one. Worst of all, it reflects an abject failure to confront these problems and improve the plight of the state's children.
Many of the problems highlighted in this survey are intractable. If the solutions were easy, the state would have fixed them.
But there are common denominators to the low rankings in most of these categories. When the state fails to properly educate its children or ensure they receive basic health care, the problems multiply.
And in several categories, the remedies are well established. We know how to reduce the infant mortality rate, the number of low birth weight babies and the teen birth rate. It's a matter of taking proven methods and applying them.
Reducing the percentage of children in single-parent families, the number of dropouts and the number of out-of-work teens is a bigger challenge. But all these failings are interconnected, with poverty often at the root.
If South Carolina wants to provide a better life for its children, it must address these problems, invest in the programs necessary to remedy them -- and aim higher than ranking better than Mississippi.
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Annual Kids Count survey show state ranks in bottom 10 in nation in many categories.