Where children are born can affect their chances for a strong start in life. Babies need Good Health, Strong Families, and Positive Early Learning Experiences to foster their healthy brain development and help them realize their full potential.
This state profile provides a snapshot of how infants, toddlers, and their families are faring in each of these three policy domains. Within each domain, view data for selected child, family, and policy indicators compared to national averages. The profile begins with a demographic description of the state’s babies and families to offer the broadest context for exploring what may be very different experiences of the state’s youngest children.
Infants and toddlers in Pennsylvania
Infants and toddlers in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to 415,153 babies, representing 3.2 percent of the state’s population. As many as 37.7 percent live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (in 2018, about $50,000 a year for a family of four), placing them at economic disadvantage. America’s youngest children are diverse and are raised in a variety of family contexts. In Pennsylvania, 34.6 percent of babies are children of color and 7.6 percent of the state’s infants and toddlers live in rural areas. A broad array of policies and services are required to ensure all of them have an equitable start in life.
How are Pennsylvania’s babies faring in Good Health?
Good physical and mental health provide the foundation for babies to develop physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially. The rate of brain growth is faster in the first 3 years than at any later stage of life, and this growth sets the stage for subsequent development. Access to good nutrition and affordable maternal, pediatric, and family health care is essential to ensure that babies receive the nourishment and care they need for a strong start in life.
Pennsylvania falls in the Improving Outcomes (O) tier for the Good Health domain. A state’s ranking is based on indicators of maternal and child health, including health care coverage, prenatal care, birth outcomes, and receipt of recommended preventive care as well as food security, nutrition, and mental health. Pennsylvania performs better than national averages on key indicators, such as the percentage of babies receiving preventive medical care and extends Medicaid eligibility to pregnant women with income above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The state is performing worse than national averages on indicators such as the percentages of uninsured babies in families with low income and babies experiencing food insecurity. Pennsylvania is a Medicaid expansion state. The state Medicaid program covers 5 of 5 screenings and services that support socioemotional well-being and maternal and infant and early childhood mental health (IECMH).
Six Key Indicators of Good Health
Good Health Policy in Pennsylvania
All Good Health Indicators for Pennsylvania
How are Pennsylvania’s babies faring in Strong Families?
Young children develop in the context of their families, where stability, safety, and supportive relationships nurture their growth. All families benefit from parenting supports, and many—particularly those challenged by economic instability—require access to additional resources that help them meet their children’s daily and developmental needs. Key supports include safe and stable housing, home visiting services, family-friendly employer policies, economic support for families with low income, and tax credits that benefit families with young children.
Pennsylvania falls in the Working Effectively (W) tier of states when it comes to indicators of Strong Families. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the percentages of families in poverty with babies receiving TANF and babies living in crowded housing. Pennsylvania is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the percentage of babies exiting foster care to permanency. Policy-wise, the state has implemented 1 of 5 policies that promote strong families, such as paid sick and family leave, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) options, the Child Tax Credit, and Earned Income Tax Credit.
Six Key Indicators of Strong Families
Strong Families Policy in Pennsylvania
All Strong Families Indicators for Pennsylvania
Positive Early Learning Experiences
How are Pennsylvania’s babies faring in Positive Early Learning Experiences?
Infants and toddlers learn through play, active exploration of their environment, and, most importantly, through interactions with the significant adults in their lives. The quality of babies’ early learning experiences at home and in other care settings impacts how prepared they are for life-long learning and success. Parents who work or attend school require access to affordable, high-quality care options that foster their babies’ development. During this rapid period of growth, access to screening and early intervention is essential to address potential developmental delays.
Pennsylvania scores in the Improving Outcomes (O) tier for Positive Early Learning Experiences. The state’s ranking in this domain reflects indicators on which it is performing better than the national average, such as the higher percentages of parents who read to their babies daily and babies who receive IDEA Part C services. Pennsylvania is doing worse than the national average on indicators such as the lower percentage of babies who received developmental screening. Infant care costs as a percentage of the state’s median income for single and married parents also contribute to the ranking. The state does not offer child care subsidy assistance to families with incomes above 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.