ZERO TO THREE publishes 2021 State of Babies Yearbook; new Arizona data released

In April, ZERO TO THREE published its annual State of Babies Yearbook, which provides nationwide and state-by-state data on the well-being of infants and toddlers.

ZERO TO THREE ensured that the data collected for the 2021 Yearbook reflected the widespread effects of the coronavirus pandemic on babies and their families. While the annual report usually relies upon national datasets that are reported retrospectively, data in this year’s report was augmented by newer data collected through the University of Oregon’s Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development in Early Childhood (RAPID-EC) Project.

The 2021 Yearbook emphasized that before the COVID-19 crisis, significant disparities already existed in the support available to babies and families. Babies of color, babies in families with low income and babies living in rural areas have not been provided equitable access to the opportunities they need to thrive. New data presented in the State of Babies Yearbook showed that these disparities were exacerbated by COVID-19, causing immediate and likely lifelong consequences for babies in underserved communities.

Through the State of Babies Yearbook, ZERO TO THREE urges policymakers and advocates to improve policies and interventions that equitably support babies and families immediately in the wake of the devastating pandemic as well as build the foundation for babies’ future learning, development and well-being.

The state where a baby is born can have a big impact on their chance for a strong start in life. The State of Babies Yearbook analyzed how a state promotes infants’ and toddlers’ development by examining three key policy domains: Good Health, Strong Families and Positive Early Learning Experiences. The Yearbook‘s analysis also used state-level data to show how Arizona compared to the national average. When examining a state’s performance in each of these policy domains, they ranked the state in one of four tiers: G (Getting Started), R (Reaching Forward), O (Improving Outcomes) or W (Working Effectively). Below, we’ve outlined the demographic data reported in the 2021 Yearbook followed by a summary of Arizona’s data in each of the three key policy domains.

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Before diving into the key policy domains, the 2021 Yearbook provided updated demographic information on Arizona’s babies. The state is home to 250,720 babies. As many as 46.24 percent of them live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line, which places them at an economic disadvantage. 62.4 percent of Arizona babies are children of color and 2.9 percent live in rural, non-metropolitan areas. With so much diversity and a wide variety of family structures, Arizona needs a broad array of policies and services to ensure all babies have an equitable start in life.

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.”

Arizona’s Good Health Tier:

Reaching Forward

Arizona’s ranking in the Good Health domain is based on indicators of maternal and child health. Arizona performs better than the national average on some indicators, including the percentage of babies born at low birth weight and babies receiving preventive dental care. However, the state performs worse than national averages on other indicators, such as the percentages of mothers reporting less than favorable mental health and women receiving late or no prenatal care.

The Yearbook examined Arizona policy that promotes Good Health:

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.”

Arizona’s Strong Families Tier:

Getting Started

Arizona’s ranking in the Strong Families domain reflects the provision of equitable supports for parents and families. Arizona performs better than the national average in indicators such as the percentages of babies who have had one adverse experience and babies who could benefit from home visiting receiving those services. Arizona performs worse than national averages on other indicators, including the percentages of babies who have had two or more adverse experiences, families who report being resilient and families living in unsafe neighborhoods.

The Yearbook examined Arizona policy that promotes Strong Families:

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.

Arizona’s Positive Early Learning Experiences Tier:

Reaching Forward

Arizona performed better than the national average on some indicators of Positive Early Learning Experiences, such as the percentage of parents who read to their babies daily. Arizona is performing worse than the national average on other indicators, including the percentage of infants and toddlers who received a developmental screening and the percentage of income-eligible infants/toddlers with Early Head Start access.

The Yearbook examined Arizona policy that promotes Positive Early Learning Experiences:

Click here to read Arizona’s full state profile from the State of Babies Yearbook: 2021