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N.H. falls from top spot in child rankings

CONCORD, N.H. -- New Hampshire has fallen from the top spot in a national survey of the health and well-being of children and teenagers.

After being first for the last four years in the Kids Count survey, New Hampshire is second this year.

The report ranks states on government statistics in 10 categories, such as low birth weight, children in single-parent households, high school dropouts, and infant mortality.

Overall, New Hampshire ranks second behind Minnesota. The state led the nation in two categories: lowest child poverty and lowest rate of teen births.

Around New England, Connecticut ranked third, Massachusetts fifth, and Vermont sixth. Maine was 15th and Rhode Island 20th.

The report is funded and compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation based in Baltimore. Although the state's child-poverty rate jumped 50 percent between 2000 and 2005, from 6 percent to 9 percent, New Hampshire's rate remains the nation's lowest. Mississippi's rate of 31 percent is the highest.

Still, that 9 percent equates to roughly 28,000 New Hampshire children living in poverty (income below $19,806 for a family of two adults and two children) in 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available.

New Hampshire had 18 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. Texas had the most young mothers, at 63 births per 1,000 teens.

New Hampshire's number has fallen significantly in recent years, from 23 births per 1,000 teens in 2000.

New Hampshire earned a top 10 ranking in other categories, including low child deaths, low teen deaths, low high school dropouts, low idle teens, and securely employed parents.

The largest improvement in any category for New Hampshire was its high school dropout rate, which dropped 33 percent between 2000 and 2005. New Hampshire had the ninth lowest dropout rate.

But the Granite State ranks better than only Indiana and Montana in graduating students with disabilities. Those students leave school at nearly three times the rate of their nondisabled peers.

Michael Maroni, chairman of the State Advisory Committee on Special Education, called the dropout rate for disabled students appalling, but said he's unsure why it's so high.