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The best county in Kentucky for children is Oldham—or, at least, they’re doing better there than in the state’s 119 other counties, says a first-time ranking of the well-being of kids in the state.

For the first time, Kentucky Youth Advocates’ Kids Count County Data Book has broken down the state’s 120 counties, considering economic security, education, health and family/community support. 

Jefferson County ranks No. 68—brought down largely by a particularly low ranking in education (114). But four counties that border Jefferson—Oldham, plus Spencer (4) Bullitt (10) and Shelby (14) are in the top 15. 

The complete rankings are below.

The report released Tuesday finds, in part, that counties surrounding Louisville perform well in those areas—and counties that perform poorly are clustered in southeastern Kentucky. That suggests a role for state leaders to improve these local-level issues.

“The cornerstone of how kids do is economic well-being,” Brooks said. “You can cut it anyway you want, but the economic security that kids enjoy, or fail to enjoy, has a direct impact on education achievement, on health outcomes, on the stability of family and communities.”

“So unless or until we attack economic security issues, all of those other domains of education, health, family and communities, aren’t going to change.”

As ways to address economic security on a state level, the study promotes a state earned income tax credit and the restoration of cuts to social programs such as the Child Care Assistance Programs.

Mixed Results

Local leaders can use the report in a couple of ways, Brooks said.

They’ll know how their county stacks up against neighbors—and can look to them for ideas on how to improve conditions for children. 

But county leaders can also parse the data to address problems in children’s wellbeing, particularly when they’re ranked highly in some categories and poorly in others.

Jefferson County is an example of this. Jefferson County is No. 23 in health, but—as noted above—it’s No. 114 in education. Brooks said the good health ranking can be attributed to initiatives undertaken by Louisville Metro government.

“What was it that the mayor has done in the health arena that perhaps the school system can do when it comes to education?” Brooks said. “Can we learn lessons that can boost kids in all areas of well-being? And that’s a challenge that all 120 counties can and should take up.”

If you’re having trouble viewing the list, you can find it here.

Here’s a county map:

The data to make the rankings comes from a variety of state and local agencies, the report said.

Here’s the report: