The 2008 Data Book from Montana Kids Count, which just hit the shelves, is boring and bland, but its informative sections on juvenile justice and the data snapshots of Native American women and children sound alarm bells.
Here’s an example. On page 9, in the middle of a chart, is this shocking bit of news: Native women in Montana have an average life expectancy of 64 years, compared to 81 for the general population.
In the past, Montana Kids Count’s annual data collections, which are funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, have published reports on the importance of early childhood education as one of the best investments a government can make.
This is a subject that some of the nation’s leading economists, led by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, have been advocating for years. Programs that help young parents and daycare and preschool programs build learning environments for children from birth to kindergarten-age are among the most effective for economic stimulation.
The 2008 book’s strength is in its numbers and nuts-and-bolts descriptions. The county-by-county section includes the numbers of kids who lack health insurance.
In addition, the juvenile justice section includes a good, basic description of what the system is and how it works, as well as funding trends.
(This post first appeared on NewWest.Net on Nov. 12, 2008.)