How the State Baby Is Born in Affects Early Life Development

It can determine whether or not they’ll have a strong start to life.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Feb 2019
mom with stroller walking through a city
Photo: iStock

While it seems pretty obvious that there are states which are more baby-friendly places to raise a child than others, where you live can also determine if your little one will have a strong start to life, according to the 2019 State of Babies Yearbook.

The survey analyzes the challenges babies in the US face during the first three years of their life based on where they live. It determines infants’ and toddlers’ potential for healthy development according to three categories: Good Health, Strong Families and Positive Early Learning Experiences. Each state was given a ranking of either—from lowest to highest—Getting Started, Reaching Forward, Improving Outcomes or Working Effectively.

Good Health

Healthy babies are more likely to become healthy, stable, successful adults. To grow up healthy, babies need support that addresses:

  • Health care access/affordability
  • Food security
  • Food nutrition
  • Maternal health
  • Child health
  • Infant and early childhood mental health

An alarming 16.5 percent of babies don’t have access to enough healthy food due to lack of resources, according to the report. On average, 6 in 1,000 babies born in the U.S. will not survive to see their first birthday, and in some states, 9 in 1,000 babies born will not survive.

Top states for good health

The below states all ranked as Working Effectively towards creating good health among babies:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Strong Families

Stable families and strong relationships help baby to grow. We achieve this when policies support:

  • Basic needs
  • Child welfare
  • Home visiting
  • Supportive policies/paid leave

Only 26 percent of families with an infant or toddler living in poverty receive federal cash assistance benefits, but access to benefits among states range from a low of 3 percent to a high of 70 percent. And as little as seven states offer paid family leave.

Top states for strong families

The below states all ranked as Working Effectively towards creating strong families:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Positive Early Learning Experiences

Babies learn through play, active exploration of the world around them and through positive interaction with the adults in their lives. These early experiences are crucial for supporting healthy development. Key factors include:

  • Early care and education opportunities
  • Early intervention and prevention services

Despite the high cost of infant care, only 4.2 percent of low- and moderate-income infants and toddlers are served by the Child Care and Development Fund, the survey says. Additionally, only 38 percent of infants and toddlers are read to every day, and just 30 percent received a developmental screening in the past year.

Top states for early learning

The below states ranked as Working Effectively towards creating positive early learning experiences:

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont

Click here to see your state’s overall ranking, as well as how they performed in each of the three areas.

The report shows what it’s like to be a baby in the US, and what factors are working for and against young children. While some places are more advanced than others, all states have room to grow in the ways they support parents caring for their kids.

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