Comparing that ranking with Frey's analysis of changes in the 20-and-younger population for each state from 2000 through 2014 produces stark results that are ominous for the nation's future economic vitality and social stability.
The 15 states that Casey ranked as producing the best outcomes for kids are mostly clustered in New England (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut), the Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin) and the mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia). But in nine of the 15 highest-ranked states, the number of young people declined from 2000 through 2014, Frey found. Only in Utah and Virginia on that list did the number of young people increase by at least 5 percent.
The 15 states that Casey ranked as producing the weakest outcomes for kids are clustered in the Sun Belt (ranging west from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to Texas, Nevada, and California) and Appalachia (West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky). In nine of the 15 lowest-ranked states, the number of young people increased from 2000 through 2014. The increase reached double digits in six of them.
In all, nearly 37 million young people, representing fully 45 percent of Americans under 20, now live in the 15 states at the bottom of the Casey list. Just 15 million young people, representing only 19 percent of the under-20 population, live in the 15 states atop the list. Moving forward, this gap may only widen: Of the 15 states that experienced the largest percentage increase in their youth population from 2000 to 2014, nine rank in Casey's bottom 15 and just one in its top 15.
An imposing chasm separates kids' experiences across these states. The share of children in poverty is lower than the national average (of 22 percent in 2013) on all 15 states topping the list. The share of children in poverty exceeds the national average in all 15 states at the bottom, including Texas (25 percent), Arizona (26 percent), and Georgia (27 percent). Results for high school graduation rates and access to health insurance follow similar patterns.
One other chasm separates the highest and lowest-ranked states: diversity. Minorities represent a majority of kids under 20 in just two of the 15 highest-ranked states. Minorities already represent a majority of the under-20 population in eight of the 15 lowest ranked states (including Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California), and at least two-fifths in four others.
Today, the Sun Belt states most acutely face the challenge of equipping more kids of color to reach the middle class. But that is increasingly becoming a national necessity. Frey's data show that the absolute number of white kids under 20 has declined in 46 of the 50 states since 2000. Against that backdrop, a failure to elevate the minority kids comprising a growing share of the workforce almost everywhere will hurt not only their states, but also our national economic competitiveness.