August 17, 2023

There is Unfinished Work When it Comes to Improving Child Well-Being in Florida

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) has released its annual report ranking the 50 states on indicators of child well-being. After modest improvements in rankings over time, Florida still comes in at 31st in the nation.

Each year, AECF uses 16 indicators organized into four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.  All of these come from publicly available national data from the U.S. Census, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the federal Department of Education so the states can be directly compared. Trend data is also presented for each variable to show change over time. 

Although the state made gains in the economic, education, and health care domains, its rank in the family and community domain was unchanged since 2022.

AECF also shined a spotlight on the nation's lack of accessible, affordable child care. While Florida has more 3- and 4-year-olds in school than many states, as shown in the Data Book, parents and early childhood educators still face numerous challenges. Child care is just one aspect of child well-being that is addressed in the Data Book report. 

Read more about the child care crisis here.

Economic Well-Being

Florida ranks 37th in economic well-being. The percent of children living in poverty remained unchanged between 2019 and 2021, due in part to stimulus payments during the pandemic and the 2021 American Rescue Plan amendments to the Child Tax Credit that lifted nearly 3 million children out of poverty.


While the Sunshine State comes in at 5th in the education domain, Florida’s best showing in the 2023 domain scores, the ranking does not tell the full story. Nearly two-thirds of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, and significantly fewer eighth graders are as proficient in math as they were in 2019, the baseline year. There were also disparities among racial and ethnic groups in educational achievement, with COVID learning loss affecting Black and Latina/o students disproportionately.


While Florida ranked 33rd this year, as compared to other states, the only indicator in this domain that improved was the share and number of children with health insurance. Going into the pandemic, the number of children without insurance was on the rise after years of improvement. However, the continuous coverage of Medicaid afforded to participants by Congress during the public health emergency temporarily halted Medicaid disenrollment and preserved the health insurance for many of Florida’s children. This increase in health insurance coverage among children is now jeopardized by the public health emergency unwinding, which has already resulted in the disenrollment of 83,000 children in the state.

Family and Community 

While the state’s overall ranking in the family and community domain, 32nd, did not change between 2022 and 2023, there were significant improvements with fewer children living in high poverty areas and a falling teen birth rate.


Florida policymakers can make strategic investments to improve the well-being of children in the state, specifically:

  • Adopting a state earned income tax credit, the Working Floridians Tax Rebate to increase economic stability and opportunity and better support working families;
  • Pausing the Medicaid public health emergency unwinding to ensure that children who are otherwise eligible are not procedurally disenrolled and taking advantage of “flexibilities” that minimize procedural disenrollments, such as allowing managed care companies to assist enrollees in completing and submitting Medicaid paperwork; and
  • Supporting public education and public educators to address disparities in educational outcomes. Florida’s already underfunded education system now has to provide vouchers to all families of K-12 students, regardless of income. An estimated $4 billion will be diverted to private schools in school year 2023-24 which have minimal accountability to taxpayers.

Florida’s rankings are not an accident, they are a reflection of the investment the state makes in its children, families, and communities. Florida can and must do better.

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