Series on racial disparities looks at work, income, and economic outcomes

June 13, 2011

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, 505-244-9505 

ALBUQUERQUE—Racial and ethnic minorities in New Mexico, who tend to have lower levels of income and higher rates of poverty than Whites, can blame it, at least in small part, to the demographics of age. New Mexico’s Hispanic, Native American and Black populations are, on the whole, younger than the White population and, therefore, fewer are in what are considered the prime working years.

That’s one of the conclusions from a new report by the Fiscal Policy Project, a program of New Mexico Voices for Children. Other factors that impact economic outcomes for minorities include lower levels of education, higher participation in low-wage industries, and citizenship status.

“Almost half of New Mexico’s non-Hispanic Whites are in the 35 to 64 age group, which are the peak earning years,” said Gerry Bradley, Research Director for NM Voices. “Whereas, more than half of all Hispanics, Native Americans and Blacks in the state are 34 or younger. While most of those in the 18 to 34 age range are in the workforce, they are still relatively low on the career ladder. And few kids under the age of 18 contribute much to the household income. This characteristic leads to lower household income levels overall,” he added.

Citizenship status is another factor. Foreign-born New Mexicans who are not U.S. citizens have a poverty rate double that of foreign-born residents who are citizens. Asians are the exception. Even though more than half of all Asians living in New Mexico are foreign-born, they have higher income levels and lower rates of poverty than any other race or ethnicity, including Whites. They are also far more likely to be U.S. citizens than other foreign-born New Mexicans.

While age demographics and citizenship status tell part of the story, disparities in education levels, which greatly influence income levels, point to the possibility that structural racism exists.

“Of course, this is not to diminish the disparities in opportunities that minority groups face, and inherited inequities,” Bradley explained. “Historically, Whites have had fewer barriers to economic opportunity and, therefore, have been able to build more inter-generational wealth.”

Because education is such a big factor in economic outcomes, the report recommends a greater investment by the state in early care and education programs—including pre-kindergarten, high-quality child care, and voluntary parental coaching—as a way of improving economic opportunities. Such programs have been shown in numerous long-term studies to improve educational outcomes, high school graduate rates, and even college attendance levels.

This report, “Race, Ethnicity and Economic Outcomes in New Mexico,” is available online here.

This is the second in a series that looks at disparities among New Mexico’s different racial and minority groups. The first, “Making Sure All KIDS COUNT: Disparities Among New Mexico’s Children,” a New Mexico KIDS COUNT special report, is available online here.


New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities.
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