Risk and Reach

Key findings

Minnesota has an estimated 436,000 children age 5 and younger.

Although no single risk factor determines a child’s developmental trajectory, cumulative risk has been found to be the most predictive of adverse outcomes in childhood and across the lifespan. There is no threshold at which intervention is futile. The Risk and Reach study found:

  • Nearly 200,000 children in Minnesota live in moderate-to-high or high-risk counties, representing 46 percent of all children under age 6 in Minnesota.
  • The reach of publicly funded early childhood programs in Minnesota varies by county and ranges from about 4 percent to about 70 percent of eligible children.
  • About 68,000 children live in 15 high-risk counties, including Ramsey County. Eight of the 15 counties (including Ramsey County) are high risk for children living in poverty, and six of them have high proportions of American Indian children.
  • About 80,000 children live in 12 counties categorized as low-risk counties. The counties with the most indicators at low risk levels are Carver, Scott, Washington, Sherburne, Red Lake, and Wright.
  • About 155,000 children live in 37 low-to-moderate risk counties.
  • About 132,000 children live in 19 moderate-to-high risk counties, including Hennepin County.
  • About 68,000 children live in 15 high-risk counties, including Ramsey County. The counties with the most indicators at high risk levels are Mahnomen, Becker, Beltrami, and Cass.


Economic risks

  • Eight percent of births in 2012 were to mothers with less than a high school degree. Nine of Minnesota’s counties fall in the high risk category on this indicator, all of which are located in greater Minnesota. Mahnomen County has the highest share (24%). More
  • Statewide, about 3 percent of children have no working parent, ranging from 25 percent in Wadena County to 2 percent in Sherburne County. More
  • Almost 17 percent of children are living in poverty in Minnesota (poverty level is about $19,000 per year for a family of three and about $23,000 for a family of four). Fourteen counties spread throughout the state fall in the highest risk category on this indicator. More

Health risks

  • The teen birth rate in Minnesota is 20 births per 1,000 girls age 15 to 19. Seven counties are high risk. Mahnomen, Nobles, and Beltrami counties have the highest rates at 96, 55, and 50 births per 1,000 teen girls, respectively. More
  • In 2012, an estimated 22 percent of births in Minnesota lacked adequate prenatal care. Most counties are low to moderate risk on this indicator. The 13 high-risk counties are scattered throughout the state, including multiple counties in the southwest and northwest regions. More
  • In 2013, almost 5 percent of births were low-weight births (under 5.5 pounds). The thirteen counties in the high risk category are spread throughout the state. More
  • The Minnesota infant mortality rate is 5 deaths per 1,000 births. The rate in Mahnomen County is the highest, 13.5 per 1,000, reflecting the county’s high concentration of American Indian children and mortality rates among American Indian babies that are double the rates of white babies in Minnesota. More
  • About 6 percent of children in Minnesota under age 6 lacked health care coverage (2008-2012), with the range stretching from 2 percent in Lyon and Pennington counties to a high of 16 percent in Mahnomen and Todd. More
  • About 37 percent of 2-year-old children (age 24 through 35 months) lacked the recommended childhood immunizations in 2013. Immunization levels range from 32 percent in Chisago County to 88 percent in Lyon County. The 16 high-risk counties include all seven Twin Cities metro region counties, except Carver, which falls in the moderate to high risk category. More

Family stability risks

  • Nineteen percent of children under age 5 changed residences at least once in the past year (2008-2012). Eleven counties fall in the high risk category, including the state’s two most populous counties, Hennepin and Ramsey. Yellow Medicine County features the highest share of children who moved in the last year (27%), and Sherburne County has the lowest share (9%). More
  • In 2013, 25 in 1,000 children under age 5 statewide had a maltreatment report filed. Mille Lacs County has the state’s highest rate, at 75 per 1,000 children. Anoka, Dakota, and Washington counties are among the lowest-risk counties. More
  • In 2013, about 8 in 1,000 children under age 6 statewide were in foster care. The state’s highest rates of foster care placements are all in six northern counties. Beltrami has the state’s highest rate, at 45 per 1,000 children. More

Reach measures

Reach of health programs

  • Seventy percent of eligible children under age 6 are served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). In general, greater Minnesota counties have higher levels of reach than counties in the metro area. More
  • The Family Home Visiting Program reaches 8 percent of the targeted low-income families (at or below 185% of poverty level) with children under age 5. In general, high-reach counties tend to be in greater Minnesota. More

Reach of human services

  • A third of children under age 6 in low-income families (at or below 125% of poverty level) are covered by the Minnesota Family Investment Program. The coverage ranges from 11 percent in Red Lake County to 91 percent in Beltrami County. In the Twin Cities metro area, Anoka, Hennepin, and Ramsey counties have high reach levels (65%). More
  • Thirteen percent of children under age 6 in low-income families (at or below 200% of poverty level) are served by the Child Care Assistance Program. The participation ranges from 3 percent in Todd County to 23 percent in Dodge County. Counties in southeast Minnesota near Rochester have high levels of CCAP reach, and counties in the northwest have lower levels. More
  • Statewide, 40 children per 1,000 children under age 6 enrolled in Minnesota Health Care Programs were assessed and treated for mental health issues in 2013. Ramsey County is among the 12 low-reach counties scattered across Minnesota. More

Reach of education programs

  • About a third of children age 3 received developmental screenings by the Early Childhood Screening Program in 2013. The reach ranges from 8 percent in Mahnomen County to about 75 percent in Douglas, Lac qui Parle, Pipestone, and Red Lake counties. In the metro area, Hennepin (25%) and Ramsey (22%) counties have low reach levels. More
  • About a quarter of children under age 6 living in poverty are served by Head Start and Early Head Start. In general, greater Minnesota counties have higher levels of reach than counties in the metro area. The coverage ranges from 10 percent or below in Carver and Dakota counties in the metro area and Benton, Dodge, Le Sueur, Mower, Murray, Rock, Sherburne, and Sibley counties in greater Minnesota to 80 percent or higher in Clearwater, Douglas, Freeborn, Lincoln, Roseau, and Swift counties. More
  • In 2014, about 4 percent of children under age 5 were served by early intervention or early childhood special education services statewide, ranging from 1 to 11 percent of children per county. More

Finally, this report is a good first step in developing a tool useful to describe and compare indicators of early childhood development at the county level. A comprehensive, cross-agency, integrated early childhood data system would make these and other related data more accessible and more useful for assessing cumulative early childhood risk and the relationship between risk and reach over time.

See how your county of interest is faring

map of Minnesota with county boundaries visible

View risk measures and the reach of services for a specific county. Browse all counties or select below.


Sponsored By

Minnesota Early Childhood Risk and Reach was developed by the University of Minnesota (Harris Training Programs in the Center for Early Education and Development) and Wilder Research in partnership with the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, and Human Services.


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