Children More at Risk in Red States, Book Claims

( - A family group voiced deep skepticism Thursday about a new book charging that children in Republican-leaning states are at greater risk than their peers elsewhere because of conservative policies.

The book, "Homeland Insecurity... American Children at Risk," says the risks include "inadequate pre-natal care, lack of health care insurance coverage, early death, child abuse, hunger and teen incarceration."

It was released Thursday by the child advocacy group, Every Child Matters Education Fund, whose president, Michael Petit, authored the book.

"Thanks in large part to the erosion of real federal spending on children and families, mostly engineered by conservatives, the child poverty rate is rising again even as the stock market has climbed," Petit wrote in the book.

"Further, more people are uninsured, real wages are declining, prisons are overflowing, and millions of children live in distressed families facing their struggles alone, thanks in large measure to conservative policy," he said.

Petit based his "red state" versus "blue state" distinctions on the 2004 presidential elections.

Based on that measure, he said, nine of the top 10 states with "the best outcomes for children today" are the Democratic voting blue states of Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington, Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire, with Iowa being the sole red (or Republican voting) state in the group.

Of those states "with the worst outcomes for children," he said, the 10 worst are all red states: Wyoming, Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Children in the bottom 10 states were almost twice as likely to lack health insurance as children in the top 10, he said.

"This failure to spend on children is morally indefensible," Petit added.

"Lest anyone be misled, the conservative attack on federal spending for children is strictly ideological," he said. "It has nothing to do with a purported conservative goal of exercising fiscal restraint: far from it. We've gone from massive federal budget surpluses just six years ago to massive budget deficits today."

Charmaine Yoest, vice president of communications for the Family Research Council, said she was "really skeptical" of Petit's findings.

"Using the whole red state/blue state [idea] as a framing mechanism is a little suspect to me," she told Cybercast News Service .

"They don't appear to have taken into consideration a variety of variables," she said. "You have to be pretty careful about positing causality, and I'm not certain that they have done that.

"They have a very simplistic and disingenuous analysis," Yoest said.

"It is very clear that they are looking for more government programs that involve more government spending and higher taxes," she said.

"Any time you hear advocates on the left talking about children you can be certain that they aren't going to pay attention to the effect of family structure on the well-being of children," Yoest said.

"This project appears to be no different," Yoest argued. "There's somehow this mythical idea that spending equals well-being for children when in fact the research data is incontrovertible.

"The overwhelming evidence has proven that the two-parent family - a mom and a dad, committed for life and caring for kids - provides the best outcomes for children," Yoest said.