New Mexico continues to be ranked last in the country in child-well being, according to a report released Tuesday written by New Mexico Voices for Children.
For the second time in five years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count program ranked New Mexico 50th for child well-being. The Kids Count also ranked New Mexico 49th in economic well-being, 50th in education and 48th in health.
The report cited what it called the austerity policies of the past decade for the low rankings. “With a brand-new governor,” the report reads, “this is the perfect time to change our course – to turn from austerity onto a road to opportunity.“
In nearly all cases, Hispanic and Native American children were more likely to be experiencing hardships compared to non-Hispanic whites.
49th in Economic Well-being
The number of New Mexican parents without secure employment, which the report defined as having no job or being employed part-time or seasonally, had been steadily decreasing since its recent high point in 2010 at 37 percent. It had returned to 36 percent in 2016.
The number of disconnected youth, which the report defined as people 16 to 19 years old not working or in school, also rose from nine to 10 percent.
One spot of improvement was the slight decrease of children living in poverty, from 30 percent to 27 percent in 2016 and 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, those numbers are still some of the highest in the country.
Another point of improvement in the report was the continuation of the gradual decrease in parents spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. In 2010, over 40 percent of New Mexico parents were shelling out over 30 percent of their incomes for housing. In 2016, about 32 percent were.
50th in Education
From its high point of above 60 percent in 2012, the number of children ages three to four not in school had fallen to 57 percent.
About 25 percent of fourth graders were at least proficient in reading, which is more than the 2009 mark of 20 percent. In math, about 20 percent were at least proficient. The national averages for reading and math were 35 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
In 2016, 29 percent of New Mexico high schoolers did not graduate in four years. Following a national trend, the number of students not graduating in four years has decreased from its high point of 35 percent in 2009 — the national average is just over 15 percent.
48th in Health
Nearly one in ten babies born in New Mexico weighed less than 5.5 pounds in 2016. According to the report, babies born at a low birthweight are at greater risk for developmental delays, disabilities, chronic conditions and early death.
Since 2008, the number of children without health insurance fell from 15 percent to five, matching the national average. The biggest decrease in uninsured children were in Native Americans and Hispanic households.
The death rate for teens and children was 33 in every 100,000, compared to national average of 22 in 100,000. That’s down from a high point of 44 in 2009, but up from 2013 when the rate was less than 30. The death rate was significantly higher in Roosevelt and Mora counties.
In Roosevelt County, the rate was 152 in 100,000 children under 14 years. In Mora county, the rate was 378 in 100,000 for teens between 14 and 19 years old.
The rate of binge drinking among New Mexican teens, 11 percent, was less than the national average, 14 percent. The report defined binge drinking as having four or more drinks on at least one occasion in the last 30 days.
The New Mexico Kids Count data does not conduct primary research, according to the report. They instead create an aggregate of data collected from sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, the New Mexico Public Education Department, New Mexico Human Services Department, New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department.
The report was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Justin Garcia is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Just516garc.