Overall, New Jersey ranks 4th in the country in the national 2012 KIDS COUNT data book released this morning.

The Garden State earns high marks for education, health and the overall well-being of families and the communities in which they live, but ranks 19th for the economic well-being of its children and families. One expert says this shows that the growing, persistent poverty is hurting kids across the state.

“4TH place I think indicates that we are a state that is a very positive state for kids,” says Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Zalkind says there is also some “sobering” news in the annual report from the Annie E Casey Foundation. New Jersey ranks 19th for the economic well-being of its children and families showing that growing and persistent poverty is hurting children across the state.

“New Jersey leads the nation in education and child health, but the rising child poverty means that thousands of New Jersey children face an uphill battle,” says Zalkind. “Children in poor families are more likely to suffer health problems and less likely to do well in school. These children need additional supports to grow up safe, healthy and educated.”

This year’s report ranks states in four broad categories: Economic Well-being, Education, Health and Family and Community Well-being, in addition to the overall ranking. Sixteen different indicators were used to determine each state’s rank in these four areas.

New Jersey earned its highest mark for education, ranking 2nd nationally, behind Massachusetts. On the health front, New Jersey was 5th overall, earning its best marks for a low child/teen mortality rate and low percent of youth who abuse alcohol or drugs. For overall family and community well-being, New Jersey ranked 9th.

In addition to the measures tracked in the Data Book, the KIDS COUNT Data Center provides easy, online access to the latest child well-being data on hundreds of indicators by state, county, city, and school district.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book with state-by-state rankings and supplemental data can be found here.