CHEYENNE – A large percentage of children in Laramie County live with just one parent – but most of those kids have health insurance.
The Wyoming Community Foundation recently released the 2016 Wyoming Kids Count Data Book, though the data is from 2014.
Data included in the book rank Laramie County 20th among the state’s 23 counties in regard to the number of kids currently being raised in single-parent households.
About 30 percent of Laramie County’s children are raised by single parents. Only Natrona County, Fremont County and Platte County rank lower, and in that order.
However, Laramie County ranks high in the percentage of children in the county who have access to health insurance. According to the data, just 4 percent of kids in Laramie County do not have insurance. About 3 percent are 5 years old or younger, and about 4 percent are between 6 and 17 years old.
In 2014, there were 22,699 children 17 or younger in Laramie County.
Samin Dadelahi, chief operating officer at the Wyoming Community Foundation said, “In my mind, we created (the Data Book) so that we could put it in the hands of policymakers, decision-makers, community providers, so the most important thing is that people look at it,” she said.
“Many times when people want to make a decision, they want to see some data, and we’re giving them a starting point.”
As far as why Laramie County has such a high rate of single-parent families, Dadelahi said, “It is an interesting question. You could theorize a lot of different things.”
She said she didn’t know the reason but suggested the higher rate in both Laramie County and Natrona County might be caused by single parents finding work more easily in the more populated counties.
Dadelahi said she is surprised by the decline in the rate of births to teens and repeat births to teens.
“In five years, there really has been such a significant decrease. And it’s part of a national trend,” she said.
She added that she spoke with Shelly Barth, Adolescent Health Program manager for the Wyoming Department of Health, regarding the declining rates.
“She said that one of the things – even though they make jokes about it – that they think has to do with it is the ‘Teen Mom’ program on MTV,” Dadelahi said.
She explained that the reason the decline in the teen birth rates is so important is because of the affect it has on the women and the children throughout their lives.
“It’s one of the biggest factors leading to a decrease in economic self-sufficiency. Because it impacts whether or not you stay in school; it impacts the type of education you end up getting ultimately; it impacts the type of jobs you have; it also impacts, oftentimes, the health of the child, your access to prenatal healthcare – so many different things,” she said.
In Laramie County, there were about 39 teen births per 1,000 live births in 2014, placing the county 18th in Wyoming. In total, 1,256 babies were born in Laramie County that year.
In 2014, about 12 percent of teens who gave birth had already given birth once before. That’s the lowest of any county with reportable data. Only Laramie, Natrona, Sweetwater, Campbell, Fremont and Converse counties reported data.
Laurel Wimbish, assistant research scientist with the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, said in an email, “Vital Records does not report numbers lower than five, meaning for 17 counties there were five or fewer repeat teen births.”
The Data Book also reports that about 10 percent of babies born in Laramie County in 2014 were born to mothers without a high school diploma. That ranks Laramie County eighth of the 23 counties.
Laramie County ranked 14th for percentage of babies born to mothers whose primary source of payment is Medicaid, with about 33 percent of births through Medicaid.
The Data Book shows that during pregnancy, about 29 percent of expecting mothers did not receive adequate prenatal care, which places Laramie County 15th in the state.
About 15 percent of expectant mothers smoked during their pregnancies, which places Laramie County eighth, and about 12 percent of babies were born at a low birth weight, which place the county 19th of 23 counties.
Dadelahi said that Wyoming has one of the highest rates of babies born at low birth weights in the country, which she said many people theorize is because of high rates of women who smoke during pregnancy.
“But if you compare the counties where we have the highest rates of women who smoke during pregnancy and the highest counties with low birth weight babies, they don’t match up,” she said.
The infant mortality rate is six deaths per 1,000 births in Laramie County, placing the county 15th statewide. The Data Book counts each death of a child under 1 year old.
The book also covers economic stability in Laramie County. About 15 percent of Laramie County’s children live in poverty, which ranks the county 13th in the state.
The county has the fifth largest gender wage gap in the state, with women earning 74 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the book.
The book shows that a woman’s average annual income in Laramie County is $38,219, which places it fifth in the state. A man’s average annual income is $51,428, placing the county 14th among the other counties in that regard.
The Center for Women’s Welfare with the University of Washington built a self-sufficiency calculator for each state, and the Wyoming Community Foundation used the calculator for parts of its report.
According to the calculator, a family with two adults and two children between the ages of 6 and 12 should earn at least $43,462 annually to be self-sufficient.
The calculator can be adjusted for many different family types in any Wyoming county and can be found at http://wywf.org/self-sufficiency-calculator/.