For the past 24 years, Mississippi has been ranked the worst state in which to raise a child by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. But this year, it was surpassed by New Mexico.
The foundation uses a series of 16 indicators to rank the well-being of children in all states. Mississippi ranked number 49 on the list of 50 states, as gains in health and education pulled it up from its usual bottom spot.
But the state continues to face financial struggles as one-third of Mississippi's children live in poverty. In comparison, 13 percent of New Hampshire's children are at or below the poverty level.
On the top of the list for the best places to raise a child were New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
"While we are not where we need to be, the fact that our child and teen death rate, along with some decrease in the percentage of children without health insurance has been helpful," said Mississippi Kids Count Director Linda Southward.
The South also seems to be improving, as Louisiana is the only southern state to finish in the bottom five. But it seems the Southwest is getting worse, as three of the top five were in the region.
Mississippi's main gains were in education, as Southward said there was a significant improvement in the number of kids enrolled in preschool. There were also general student improvements in math for eighth grade students and in reading for fourth grade students. Still, Mississippi is 48th on the list for educational ratings.
"The evidence is clear — we help children by helping families," Southward said. "The importance of quality child care, fully funding education opportunities for children and promoting evidence-based practices, underscored by economic development, is crucial to continued outcomes. We are still woefully behind the country in reading proficiencies, and the high percentage of high school students not graduating on time continues to be of concern."