Alabama Ranks Among Nation’s Lowest in Child Well-Being, Life Expectancy


Alabama ranks 47th in the country for overall child well-being, according to the 2021 Alabama Kids Count data report. And a new report examining life expectancy by U.S. congressional district found that average life expectancy in Alabama is among the lowest in the nation.

Child Well-Being

The 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book includes a state-to-state comparison of overall child well-being that examines economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors.

Alabama’s overall rank fell from 44 to 47 in 2019.

Other key findings include:

  • Less than 24% of Alabama fourth graders are proficient in math and only half are proficient in reading
  • Nearly 24% of Alabama children (228,000 children) live in poverty
  • 1 in 5 Alabama children are food insecure
  • In the middle of a youth mental health crisis, there is only one mental healthcare provider for every 923 Alabamians.

Striking racial disparities persist in the state’s infant mortality rate, which is more than twice as high for Black infants (11.9 deaths per 1,000 births) as for white infants (5.6 per 1,000). The rate of low-weight births (defined as less than five pounds at birth) was also more than twice as high for Black infants (16.3%) as for white infants (7.9%).

The death rate for children 14 and younger in Alabama was also higher for Black children, at 31.8 per 100,000, compared to 24.4 for white children and the state average of 26.5.

Black children ages 15-19 died from homicide, suicide, and accidents at a much higher rate (75.9 per 100,000) than white teens (52.7) and than the state average (59.3).

Black and Hispanic children (40.3% and 39.3%, respectively) are also far more likely to be living in poverty than white children (15.6%) in Alabama.

Life Expectancy

A new study also revealed that Alabamians have some of the lowest life expectancies in the nation.

Researchers at Harvard University estimated life expectancy on the congressional district level across the U.S. by computing standard deviations of census tract-level age-specific life expectancies for 2010–2015.

They found that five of Alabama’s seven congressional districts ranked among the nation’s 35 districts with the lowest average life expectancy.

Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa, had the lowest life expectancy at birth at 73.21 years, and Alabama’s 4th District, which includes Gadsden and Jasper in north Alabama, ranked fifth worst in the nation, with a life expectancy of 74.26 years.

The state’s 6th District, which includes some of the wealthiest ZIP codes in Alabama, had a life expectancy of just 77.2 years—making it 320th out of 436 districts studied.

In contrast, the district with the nation’s highest life expectancy at birth was California’s 17th Congressional District, located in the San Francisco Bay Area, at 83.29 years.