Kids in these states have had the toughest time during COVID-19

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Children in several Southern states have fared the worst during COVID-19, according to a new report on how kids across the U.S. have experienced hunger, remote-learning disadvantages and trouble with household bills.

Louisiana ranked last in Save the Children’s “child-focused” U.S. household analysis, which examined U.S. Census Bureau surveys from the last four months of 2020. In that state, one in four families don’t have enough food to eat, and a quarter also don’t have internet access or access to a digital device for educational use. Half are finding it difficult to afford household expenses.

Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico and Alabama landed the next lowest rankings on the humanitarian organization’s report. While families at all income levels in each state are feeling strain from COVID-19, the report noted, “the poorest families are struggling the most.” 

Overall, children were doing best in Minnesota and Utah, followed by Washington, New Hampshire and North Dakota. The top-ranking states “are not necessarily the ones with the lowest COVID case rates,” the authors said; rather, they have safeguards and resources in place to aid children and families.


‘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.’


— Save the Children report

With that said, rankings at the state level obscure large disparities, the report said. “Even in the best states, the poorest families are often much more likely to suffer the negative effects of COVID than the wealthiest families,” the authors said. Meanwhile, many families with children have experienced “multiple and overlapping” struggles during this health and economic crisis.

The authors added that there are considerable equity gaps across income, geography and race and ethnicity. For instance, Black (28%) and Hispanic (25%) families are about twice as likely as their white counterparts (13%) to report having insufficient food to eat.

Children of color are also more likely than white children to be participating in remote schooling and to lack live access to their teachers; Black families are far more likely to lack access to digital devices or the internet. And Black and Hispanic families are more likely to experience difficulty paying bills.

Meanwhile, despite COVID-19 having a relatively low death toll among children, a disproportionate share of coronavirus-related child deaths have been children of color.

All told, an estimated 17 million kids in the U.S. are experiencing hunger, two in three families are struggling to afford household expenses, and one in four renting families are delayed in payments. A quarter of kids, particularly those in rural areas, don’t always have the necessary distance-learning tools.

The report sourced its data on insufficient food, inadequate remote-learning tools, and struggle to pay bills from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Center.

“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.”

See also: The share of kids visiting the emergency department for mental-health concerns has increased during the pandemic

Read more: How COVID-19 is keeping kids away from the dentist — especially children on Medicaid

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