MONTPELIER -- Vermont kept its No. 2 national ranking in the well-being of the state's children, ranking highly on education, family and community factors, according to statistics compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Foundation's 2014 Kids Count report being released Tuesday measures 16 indicators from four groups that measure a child's well-being: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
The report, now in its 25th year, showed 10 indicators where Vermont improved over the 2013 report and three where it worsened. Three others were unchanged. The state ranked third in education, family and community while economic well-being improved a spot from ninth to eighth.
The only category that dropped from the 2013 report to this year's was Vermont's health ranking, which fell to sixth from fourth. Even so, three of the four measures in the health category showed improvement: children without health insurance, child and teen deaths and percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. The fourth category, low-birth-weight babies, was unchanged.
But a decline in a ranking could mean changes in other states rather than deterioration in Vermont, said Sarah Teel, the research associate for Voices for Vermont's Children, which distributes the national Kids Count data book in Vermont.
"We have to be careful about assuming that our relatively high rank means we don't need to improve," Teel said.
In this year's report, Massachusetts led the country, followed by Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire -- which fell from first place in 2013 -- and Minnesota. Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi had the lowest rankings.
Vermont ranked second in 2013, third in 2012 and fourth in 2011.
The three areas where Vermont declined were the percentage of children living in households with a high housing cost, 36 percent, up from the 2005 baseline year when 33 percent lived in high-burden housing.
The number of children living in single-parent families also worsened, rising to 32 percent from 31 percent and the number of children living in high poverty areas from 2008-2012 was 2 percent, up from about zero in 2000.
The report found that 15 percent of the state's children, about 19,000, live in poverty. Nevertheless, Vermont's economic well-being ranked eighth in the country, up from ninth in 2013.