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Well-Being Disparities Persist for New Mexico's Children

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Thursday, January 16, 2020   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- There is positive news for children in the annual data book released Wednesday by New Mexico Voices for Children.

But the children's advocacy group says significant improvements still are needed.

The data book tracks child well-being from one year to the next, and found a slight improvement in child poverty rates in 2018. It also shows that child health insurance rates and preschool attendance have improved over time.

Teen birth rates continued to decline, according James Jimenez, executive director, New Mexico Voices for Children, who says that indicator is important to watch.

"A trend that has been moving in the right direction for many years now, and although we still rank fairly low -- 44th -- it's certainly moving in the right direction," he states.

Overall the data book shows that 26% of the state's children in 2018 remained at or below the federal poverty line, which made New Mexico 49th in the nation, a change from 48th place the year before.

The report found that even more Hispanic children -- 30% -- were living in poverty, while the percentage of Native American children was still higher at 41%.

While the state as a whole saw a larger share of children living in high poverty areas, the rate worsened most dramatically for black children, rising from 20% by 2016 to 26% in 2017.

Jimenez argues that New Mexico is not adequately providing opportunities for children of color.

"And it's really evident to us that if we are going to make sure that New Mexico thrives in the future, we really have to be a lot more intentional about ensuring that we are addressing the conditions that children of color are living in in our state," he stresses.

At the same time, Jimenez notes that Hispanic and Native American youth have seen the biggest improvements in high school graduation rates.

He adds that Voices for Children would like to see lawmakers improve tax policies for working families during the 2020 legislative session that begins next week.

"So we hear all the time that politicians saying children are our future, they are our most important asset, but if you look at our budget, it's not reflected in the way that we make tax policy," he states.

Voices for Children would also like to see lawmakers pass common sense, gun safety legislation, and increase funding for the state's behavioral health system.

Disclosure: New Mexico Voices for Children/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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