NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth released its 2023 county profiles on child well-being, and Davidson County ranked near the bottom compared to others in the state.
The annual profiles looked at 52 indicators and ranked counties in vital areas affecting child development: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Davidson County was ranked 88th overall.
One of the biggest challenges is education, where Davidson County ranks 94th of 95 counties. Some of the factors include reading and math proficiency for grades three through eight and the number of students graduating high school on time, where the county ranks last place at 95th. The commission also found 30% of Nashville youth are chronically absent.
Davidson County ranks 80th for economic well-being, which breaks down into several other categories. The report stated about one in five children living in poverty.
“Additionally, severe housing cost burden — not a surprise that Davidson has some really high housing rates — but 15% of our families are spending at least half of their income on housing costs alone, which is obviously going to burden all of those other aspects. The bills stand still have to be paid,” said TN Commission on Children and Youth Policy Specialist Kylie Graves.
Two areas where Davidson County does better is where children are victims of abuse or neglect where it ranks 9th, and “child care cost burden” where it ranks 23rd at 22.4%.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services typically use this 7% of a family’s income as kind of the benchmark for affordable care. So, Davidson ranking well is still three and a half times higher than what affordability is,” said Graves. “So before the Davidson parents say ‘What are you talking about? Childcare is not one of our strengths,’ it’s relative to the rest of the state who is also significantly struggling in access to affordable care.”
The data is primarily from 2021 and 2022. The commission says it all gives a glimpse into the varying needs of each county and the considerably different experience, access to resources and supports a child may have in one county compared to another.
While Davidson County is ranked 88th out of Tennessee’s 95 counties overall, others in Middle Tennessee made the top of the list. Williamson County ranked first, Wilson County ranked second, Sumner County ranked third, Rutherford County ranked fourth, Cheatham County ranked 8th, and Smith County ranked 9th.
“The thing that strikes me a lot about the county profiles is just the disparate experiences of kids depending on which county they’re in,” said Graves. “I think especially when you contrast the things that we’re seeing in Davidson compared to Williamson, when they’re really side by side counties. In terms of percentage wise we see that in Davidson, we have 21% of our kids, so that one in five figure living in poverty, and in Williamson, that’s 3.9%. So drastic changes there.”
She said it’s become a trend where Davidson County has many challenges while surrounding counties are faring better.
“That could be relative to income, access to resources, affordability, some of the base in terms of population, but it is something that we’ve consistently seen in at least the last four years,” explained Graves.
Bedford County ranked 78th overall with a big issue being children lacking health insurance. DeKalb county ranked 83rd with a big challenge of children being victims of abuse or neglect. Houston county ranked 82nd, and Perry county ranked 84th.
The commission’s press release stated, “Comparing data across counties provides a glimpse into the varying needs of each county and the considerably different experience, access to resources and supports a child may have in one county compared to another. One in seven Davidson households are spending more than half of their income on housing, ranking 92nd. Comparatively, the best performing county has only one in 20 households spending half of their income on housing.”
See all the county rankings here.