North Carolina ranks 34th in the nation for overall child well-being, according to the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book is a product of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that examines 16 measures of child well-being in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, family and community.

North Carolina was one of the worst ranked states for economic well-being at 38 and performed only slightly better for family and community at 36.

The Tar Heel State ranked slightly better for the health category at 32 and received its highest rank for education at 28.

Director of Research and Data at NC Child, Laila Bell, said in a recent press release that they know what children need to be successful, which includes a healthy start in life, stable families, a quality education, and safe and secure communities.”

26 percent of children in North Carolina lived in poverty in 2012, a 24 percent rise from 2005. Various studies indicate that poverty is one of the biggest threats to healthy development and growth, placing children at risk for a plethora of bleak outcomes such as reduced academic achievement, heightened dropout rates, health issues, substance abuse, and increased likelihood of living in poverty as an adult.

Statistics show that North Carolinian families are still struggling from the impact of a poor economy. Thirty three percent of children in North Carolina live in a family where their parents lack secure employment or have a high housing cost burden.

Bell also says in the press release that North Carolina’s focus needs to shift in order to find solutions for symptoms of child poverty, such as “high-quality education.”

North Carolina did better in the category of health, improving three out of the four indicators by 20 percent or more over the course of a five-year time period. Children without health insurance declined by 20 percent to 8 percent in 2012, while in 2010 child and teen dropped by 21 percent to 27 per 100,000 children from ages 1 to 19. Additionally, the percentage of teens ages 12 to 17 who reportedly abused alcohol or drugs in the past year fell by 25 percent to 6 percent in 2011-2012.

Though North Carolina fell behind one spot in the education domain, data reveals an increase in students graduating high school. Between the 2005/2006 and 2011/2012 school years, the number of high school students not graduating on time declined by a quarter to 21 percent.

Bell says “a well-educated workforce is a powerful tool that drives economic growth.”

This year’s publication of the Data Book marks the 25th edition of the report. Bell says long-term trends call to light the impact that effective programs and high quality practice can make in improving the well-being of children today and in the years to come.

For more information, view the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book online here.