Tennessee ranks at bottom of states for babies’ well-being

WASHINGTON, DC – Tennessee ranks as a bottom state for babies, according to a first-of-its kind report. “The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019” compiles nearly 60 indicators that affect the well-being of children ages 0 to 3 and provides an in-depth look at national and state-by-state progress across three policy areas: Good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences.

Researchers from the early childhood development nonprofit Zero to Three and the non-partisan research organization Child Trends used these indicators to compare and rank states based on how they support the youngest in America.

Tennessee was among 13 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia to earn a ranking in the lowest tier out of four. However, the Yearbook highlights areas where Tennessee still has room to improve to give the youngest Tennesseans – which make up 3.7 percent of the state population – the chance to thrive.

“Each of the 245,310 babies in Tennessee was born with a bundle of unlimited potential and the first three years of their life will shape every year that follows,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of Zero to Three. “But far too many babies face persistent hardships–such as food insecurity, unstable housing, and exposure to violence–that undermine their ability to grow and thrive.”

“The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019” reveals that the state where babies are born makes a difference in their chances for a strong start in life. Also, because of historical and structural inequalities, children of color are more likely to be poor, to be born too soon or too small, and to live in environments that challenge their families’ security.

Not only is there wide variation between states on availability and access to policies and programs that support babies, there is also wide variation of outcomes affecting children’s development and well-being. This highlights the relationship between policy supports for babies and families and the chance to overcome adversity.

Tennessee’s young children fare better than the national average in:

  • Maternal mental health: 19.4 percent of mothers in Tennessee report less than optimal mental health, compared to the national average of 22 percent.
  • Crowded housing: 10.7 percent of Tennessee’s babies live in crowded housing, compared to the national average of 15.6 percent.
  • Reading: 44.9 percent of parents in Tennessee read to their baby every day, compared to the national average of 38.2 percent.

Tennessee’s young children fare worse than the national average in:

  • Food security: 23.2 percent of babies in Tennessee face low or very low food security, compared to the national average of 16.5 percent.
  • Home visiting: 0.9 percent of potential home visiting beneficiaries are served in Tennessee, compared to the national average of 1.9 percent.
  • Early Head Start: 3 percent of income-eligible infants and toddlers in Tennessee access Early Head Start, compared to the national average of 7 percent.

“The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019” uses a transparent ranking process to group states into one of four tiers to provide a snapshot of how states fare on the selected indicators and domains. These tiers represent four groupings of states that are approximately equal in size and ordered from highest to lowest performing. Access the national profile and state data at stateofbabies.org.

Zero to Three works to ensure all infants and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a Zero to Three member, visit zerotothree.org or facebook.com/zerotothree, or follow @zerotothree on Twitter.

Zero to Three created the Think Babies campaign to make the potential of every baby a national priority. Learn more at thinkbabies.org.