America's Most Disadvantaged Counties for Kids are Mostly Communities of Color, Nearly All Rural & Poor New Save the Children Report Reveals

Features First-Ever Childhood Ranking for U.S. Counties, Highlights Childhood Equity Gap, Plus State Rankings and Global Index

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (June 2, 2020) – The first-ever ranking of how each county in America protects and provides for its children reveals the most disadvantaged counties are mostly comprised of communities of color, and nearly all are rural, poor, and concentrated in the South, according to a Save the Children report released today. The bottom-ranked counties are also the same areas that are being hit hardest by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The county rankings in the third U.S. Complement to the Global Childhood Report are based on four factors that cut childhood short: hunger, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and early death due to poor health, accident, murder or suicide. Among the more than 2,600 counties examined and ranked, more than 90 percent of the bottom-ranked counties are rural, nearly two-thirds are in the South, and three-quarters contain non-white majority populations. Children living in bottom-ranked counties die at rates up to 5 times of those of children in the highest ranked counties in their state. They are also up to 3 times as likely to struggle with hunger, 14 times as likely to drop out of high school and girls are 26 times more likely to get pregnant in their teens.  

“This report uncovers an unacceptable reality in America: millions of poor and marginalized children in this country do not get a fair chance to succeed in life because of who they are and where they grow up,” said Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and Advocacy. “In nearly every state, there are stark disparities among the experiences and opportunities for children – with pockets of promise and great disadvantage. In these tumultuous times, let’s all commit to vote at every level of government – for the future of every child – to have equal opportunities to survive, thrive and be protected.”

This year’s Childhood Report, titled The Land of Inopportunity: Closing the Childhood Equity Gap for America’s Kids, also ranks all 50 states based on five factors that cause children to miss out on childhood: hunger, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, infant death, and child deaths by homicide and suicide. This analysis found that New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa are the best states for childhood, respectively, while Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas are the most challenging states for kids. The national findings also reveal that 1 in every 8 children across America experiences shockingly high rates of hunger, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy and/or child death.

“Children fare better in states that spend more on their needs and have champions at every level from the federal government to state houses to community leaders who prioritize child-focused legislation, funding and programs,” continued Shriver. “Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey are among the top 10 states that spend the most per child – including spending on K-12 education, health, income security and social services – and they all place in the top five in this year’s ranking. It doesn’t come as a surprise that more investment is linked to better outcomes for kids.”

The Global Childhood Report evaluates 180 countries on how they protect and prioritize children, based on these factors: child death, chronic malnutrition, child marriage, child labor, adolescent pregnancy, access to education, displacement due to conflict and child homicide. Singapore, Slovenia, Finland, Sweden and Norway placed in the top five spots, respectively, while Niger, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and South Sudan filled out the bottom 5 spots. The U.S. ranked 43rd, tied with China and Montenegro, and trails nearly all other high-income countries in helping children reach their full potential.

“Compared to last year, the report finds the overall situation for the world’s children is improving in 121 out of 180 countries. This is good news and shows that investments and policies focused on children’s well-being are working,” said Janti Soeripto, President & CEO of Save the Children. “But this progress for children is not happening quickly enough for the most vulnerable children – who are facing even greater risks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Save the Children is committed to making sure every last child has the childhood – and the future – they deserve.”

Save the Children is calling on America’s policymakers at all levels of government to work together to robustly support children, regardless of where they live, craft strong child-centric policies, provide sufficient resources, and create an appropriate environment for relevant early childhood programs and interventions to flourish.

“A child does not decide where to live, and where a child grows up should not dictate his or her future. We need targeted, new investments for the most vulnerable children who are being left behind, because childhood should not be left to chance,” said Betsy Zorio, Vice President, U.S. Programs & Advocacy, Save the Children. “Raising a more successful generation of children will benefit our nation, and the world, for years to come. Today’s children are tomorrow’s engineers, nurses, teachers, firefighters, entrepreneurs, inventors, humanitarians and simply put, leaders.” 

To download and read the full report – and access an interactive map with the U.S. state and county data, including COVID-19 vulnerability data by county – visit

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


Thank you for signing up! Now, you’ll be among the first to know how Save the Children is responding to the most urgent needs of children, every day and in times of crisis—and how your support can make a difference. You may opt-out at any time by clicking "unsubscribe" at the bottom of any email.

By providing my mobile phone number, I agree to receive recurring text messages from Save the Children (48188) and phone calls with opportunities to donate and ways to engage in our mission to support children around the world. Text STOP to opt-out, HELP for info. Message & data rates may apply. View our Privacy Policy at