The NCSL Blog


By Alison May

Brain development in the first years of life provides the foundation for all future learning and development, and yet the randomness of where a child is born or lives often determines whether they have access to the services they need to thrive in their earliest years.

Credit:: State of Babies yearbookSo how are infants and toddlers doing in your state?

 ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends has produced a first-of-its-kind publication to answer how the 12 million infants and toddlers are faring in the United States.

The State of Babies Yearbook was developed as a part of Think Babies, an effort to make the potential of every baby a national priority.

What we know about our 12 million infants and toddlers:

  • 45% live in households with incomes less than twice the federal poverty level.
  • 21% live with a single parent.
  • 9% live in grandparent-headed households.
  • 61% have mothers in the work force.

The State of Babies Yearbook set out to create a baseline understanding of how young children in this country are doing in three key domains: good health, strong families and positive early learning experiences.

Within each of these domains nearly 60 indicators were evaluated and assigned a score of: Getting Started, Reaching Forward, Improving Outcomes and Working Effectively. The yearbook is one way for legislators and legislative staff to increase awareness of the needs of infants, toddlers and their families and how they are doing in each state.

NCSL has worked with experts at ZERO TO THREE to share this information with legislators and legislative staff, most recently hosting a webinar. During the 60-minute webinar, Kim Keating, lead author of the State of Babies Yearbook and senior policy research analyst in the ZERO TO THREE Policy Center, presented state-by-state data comparing nearly 60 indicators ranging from food insecurity to family resilience.

For example, with SB 564, West Virginia lawmakers expanded Medicaid coverage for pregnant moms up to 300% of federal poverty level this year, and legislators cited the yearbook as a helpful resource. In Texas, data from the yearbook’s state profile has been used by one ZERO TO THREE partner to conduct deeper and more meaningful conversations about the need for affordable child care and shape responsive solutions. 

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 is a collaborative effort between ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends. It was produced as part of Think Babies. Funding partners for Think Babies include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports the public education aspects, and the Perigee Fund, which supports the public education and advocacy aspects. Learn more at

Alison May is a policy associate in NCSL's Children and Families Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.