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Dakotas lead US in economic well-being for kids, report says

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Strong local economies and an oil boom have helped the Dakotas lead the nation in terms of economic well-being for children, according a report released Tuesday by a national children’s advocacy group that also says the two states could improve when it comes to education and kids living in poverty.

The annual Kids Count report, published Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked North Dakota and South Dakota as the top two states for economic well-being, based on data from 2012, the most recent year for which the information is available. This is the third year North Dakota ranks No. 1 in the economic well-being category, which measures the percentage of children in poverty, along with parental employment, housing costs and the number of teens working or in school.

The annual report also looks at statistics on education, health and family and community in each state.

Carole Cochran, the project director for Kids Count South Dakota, said North Dakota’s booming oil and gas industry has helped push South Dakota up in the rankings.

“There’s certainly an economic impact that is broader than just North Dakota,” she said.

Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, said the Great Plains as a whole have fared better than the rest of the country in recent years in terms of economic development. The other spots in the top five are held by Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska.

“It’s not necessarily new,” Speer said. It’s just that “the states in the Great Plains seem to have weathered the recession a bit better than other states have.”