Utah, with its desert and mountains, may not be the easiest place to raise corn, wheat or potatoes - but it is the right place to raise children, a new national study says.
But so are Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Vermont, according to the Washington-based research organization Child Trends Inc.It compared all states on nine measures that affect family strength - and only Utah and those five other states "have conditions that are almost uniformly favorable," the report says.
Most of the other states had a mixture of good and bad. But four - Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and South Carolina - "have conditions that are almost universally bad."
Of all the states, Utah may have the strongest claim to being the most oriented toward families with children.
As the report said, "Not surprisingly, of the states, Utah has the largest proportion of households with children (45 percent) and married-couple households with children (39 percent)."
Utah and Alaska are the only states where at least 40 percent of all households contain at least one parent and a child, and at least a third of all families consist of a married couple with children.
Utah finished relatively well in all the categories seen as affecting the strength and health of families, including:
- The percentage of families with children that are headed by women: 14 percent (tied with Hawaii, New Hampshire and North Dakota for the lowest in the nation).
- Percentage of adults older than age 25 with high school diplomas: 85 percent (second in the nation behind Alaska).
- Percentage of children living in poverty: 12 percent (seventh lowest among the states).
- Percentage of mothers working outside the home who have children younger than age 6: 57 percent (seventh lowest among the states).
- "Vulnerable family formation," measured by first births to women who have less than 12 years of schooling, are unmarried or are under age 20: 36 percent (eighth lowest among the states). Also, only 8 percent of first births in Utah had all three risk factors present (the third lowest in the nation).
- Unemployment rate: 5.2 percent (11th lowest among states).
- Percentage of parents (according to a survey of teachers) who lack involvement with their children's education: 21 percent (12th lowest in the nation).
- The percentage of teenage mothers who repeat giving birth as teens: 21 percent (12th lowest in the nation).
- Percentage of students (according to a survey of teachers) who show disrespect for teachers: 12 percent (16th lowest among the states).
The study noted that bigger cities - with their social ills - often score worse than suburbs or rural areas. That held true for Salt Lake City compared with averages for the rest of the state, it said.
It said the city had 21 percent of its children in poverty (compared to a state average of 12 percent); 24 percent of its families with children are headed by women (compared to a state average of 14 percent) and 83 percent of adults have high school degrees (compared to a state average of 85 percent).
Also, the city had an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent (compared to 5.2 percent for the state), and 58 percent of mothers with children under 6 worked (compared to 57 percent for the state).