Healthy, Slim, & Educated… but why?

photo source: Brent_Zupp

 

I have a confession to make.

 

You know those lists that rank states? “The Top Ten Fattest States”? “The Happiest States in America”? “The Healthiest States to Raise a Family”? “The Most Depressed States”? etc? I can never help but click on them.

 

It’s silly, really, because I don’t have much faith in their accuracy. I lose no sleep over the results, nor do I feel any great sense of accomplishment when “my” state does well. (By contrast, I must admit I am pleased as punch to live in the first state to get GMO-labeling bills on the books– go, Connecticut!)

 

Anyway, the latest study that caught my eye was the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Basically, by evaluating such categories as economic well-being, health, education, and family & community, the study seeks to determine which states are among the best for raising children.

 

Okie dokey

 

Connecticut fares pretty well in this particular study, as we typically do. Truth be told, this state seems to wind up on the thinnest, healthiest, most active, best schools, etc. lists all the time. And that’s all hunky dory and all but, as I said earlier, I’m not getting all excited about it. It’s just a list, not gospel.

 

Yahoo had linked to the study and, because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I found myself scanning the comments below their teaser. This comment jumped out at me:

“POVERTY” does NOT equate to a BAD CHILDHOOD, just as WEALTH does not GUARANTEE A GOOD ONE.

 

And my initial gut reaction? Was a “right on, sister!” Because, you know, “money doesn’t buy happiness” and all that.

 

But, well, you know what? While poverty may not equate to a bad childhood, it does lead to a whole lot of challenges and burdens that make raising families far more difficult.

 

While it would be foolish for me to read this study and say, “Oh, good, Connecticut is an awesome place to raise kids; my work here is done,” it is equally foolish to say, “socio-economic conditions have no impact on children.”

 

Because they do.

 

People tend to be thin, healthy, and active here. Some of that? Is because we make good choices. But you know what helps us make good choices? Access to lots of bike paths, hiking trails, open water, gyms, and fresh food sources. You know what else helps? Enough money to afford those things.

 

Test scores tend to be high here. Our schools rank as some of the top in the nation. You know what helps that happen? The seriously high taxes we pay. This state has a high cost of living and higher than average incomes. Our schools, while facing cuts just like many across the nation, have more funding available than other areas.

 

Can healthy food be obtained on a small budget? You betcha.

 

Can children learn and thrive in a school district with little funding? Sure.

 

But the fact remains– when a great deal of attention needs to be directed toward worrying if one is going to have shelter or anything (let alone something healthy) to eat that night… well, priorities shift by necessity.

 

I can rise early and get in my morning walk before the children wake. This type of exercise costs me nothing and, thus, doesn’t seem like a luxury. However, I must also admit that I head out with the full knowledge that my children will wake in their comfortable beds to a nourishing breakfast. Guess what? That sort of freedom? Would be a luxury to some.

 

This is why the socio-economic portion matters. This is why study after study concludes that people in more well-off areas tend to have “better” lives. It’s not about having a McMansion or a giant TV or even affording all-organic perfect food. It comes down to the bare necessities– food, shelter, healthcare– not being all-consuming worries.

 

And, so, “Kaimana” (who left the above comment), I want, desperately, to agree with you. But I cannot.

 

Working hard, budgeting, doing without extras, sharing rooms, having limited funds… these things do not equate to a bad childhood. If anything, I think they can teach valuable lessons and build strong, capable individuals.

 

But to say that poverty doesn’t impact children in a negative way? Well, though I wish it were true, the facts just don’t add up for me.

 

And what this means to me is that we ALL have some work ahead of us.

 

 

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