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Report shows more than 15 percent of South Dakota families uncertain on how they will pay rent, mortgage

Although the teen birth rate is dropping, the number of children without health insurance rose by 1 percentage point between 2010 and 2018, leaving 18,000 children without adequate access to health care.

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In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to open up the federal health insurance marketplace for three months so uninsured people can buy a plan and those who want to change their marketplace coverage can do so. Dreamstime / Tribune News Service

A new report released by South Dakota KIDS COUNT highlights the need for increased economic stability for families across South Dakota.

South Dakota KIDS COUNT is a resource for data on child and family well-being in the state and is dedicated to providing current, relevant, and reliable data to shape the issues affecting South Dakota children and families.

The study used data from before the COVID-19 pandemic to examine dozens of indicators across six categories.


The number of children without health insurance rose by one percentage point between 2010 and 2018, leaving 18,000 children without adequate access to healthcare.

— South Dakota KIDS COUNT Report


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The report found that, statewide, more than 20% of children in South Dakota live in households that spend more than the commonly recommended one-third of income on housing. Specifically, 16% of households with children said they were uncertain in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment.

These issues were reported at a higher frequency in Black and Indigenous families and other families of color.

“The reality for families of color has been shaped by generations of discriminatory policies and limited access to the economic resources that other families have had,” a press release announcing the report reads. “To move South Dakota forward, now is the time to invest in solutions that ensure all children grow up in families with the support and resources needed to thrive.”

Locally, Davison County has increased its median household income faster than other counties in the last decade, including jumping over the statewide median. The county’s median household income increased from under $41,000 in 2010 to over $57,000 in 2019, outpacing inflation and ranking eight places higher.

Hanson County saw a big jump, too, increasing $25,000 over the same time period and ranking third in the state.

In education, two-thirds of fourth graders in South Dakota read below the proficiency level, a slight improvement from years prior. High school completion rates have increased since 2013, however. Data for fourth-grade reading comprehension was not available on county or school district levels.

Karen Whitney, who holds an educational specialist degree in educational administration, said low reading comprehension scores in a group that young should not be as alarming as it may seem.

“High stakes testing is a whole different ball game,” Whitney said. “There are so many aspects of reading, it’s hard to judge that all in one test.”

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Whitney, who retired from her position as Superintendent of Todd County School District in 2018, said changes in the test administration may also affect the outcome of the score.

The report also highlighted that although the teen birth rate is dropping in South Dakota, the number of children without health insurance rose by one percentage point between 2010 and 2018, leaving 18,000 children without adequate access to healthcare.

South Dakota’s increase in uninsured children goes against the nation’s trend, as the United States as a whole is seeing fewer children without insurance year-over-year.

South Dakota KIDS COUNT recommends lawmakers in South Dakota support early childhood education initiatives, while continuing to support programs like SNAP and Medicaid in an effort to provide support for lower-income children.

Full data for the state can be explored on the South Dakota KIDS COUNT Data Center .

Related Topics: HEALTH
A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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