U.S. Census: Poverty Rate Improves for New Mexico’s Youngest Children

2018-09-13T15:01:16+00:00 Press Releases|

State Median Income Falls Slightly, Further Trailing the Nation

PRESS RELEASE
September 13, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children
505-361-1288 (direct), 505-401-8709 (c), 505-244-9509 (f), skayne@nmvoices.org

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau show a significant improvement in the child poverty rate for New Mexico’s children under the age of five. The data released today – which are from 2017 – show that 28.9 percent of New Mexico’s children younger than five live at or below the poverty level. This is a 20.2 percent drop from the 2016 data when that rate was 36.2 percent. New Mexico had slightly more than 123,000 children under age five in 2017, which amounts to about 6 percent of the state’s population.

“A big drop in poverty for our youngest children is very good news, as poverty is most harmful to children when they are young. This is the time when critical brain development is happening and not only do kids living in poverty have fewer resources for enrichment, the stress caused by financial hardship can do real damage,” said James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, a child advocacy group.

The overall child poverty rate (ages 0-18) improved by 9.6 percent (dropping from 30.1 percent in 2016 to 27.2 percent in 2017) while the total poverty rate – for New Mexicans of all ages – stayed essentially the same (dropping 0.5 percent from 19.8 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2017). Last year, New Mexico was last in the nation in child poverty (50th). This year, Louisiana is worst and New Mexico is second-worst. In overall poverty (all ages), New Mexico is tied with Louisiana for second worst and Mississippi is worst. New Mexico ranked 48th for overall poverty last year.

New Mexico’s median income stayed relatively flat, dropping 0.01 percent from $46,748 in 2016 to $46,744 in 2017. Median income for the nation, however, increased by nearly 5 percent (from $57,617 to $60,336). Given inflation, New Mexico’s median income actually lost purchasing power, while income for the nation as a whole slightly exceeded the inflation rate. New Mexico also ranked 50th in the nation for its poverty rate both among people with a bachelor’s degree and among those who work.

“These data give us a snapshot of financial well-being for the state, but they don’t tell the whole story,” Jimenez said. “What is clear is that, despite some improvement, New Mexico still lags behind most of the states in economic stability. We just don’t have enough jobs that pay family-supporting wages. Policies like increasing the minimum wage, child care assistance, and the Working Families Tax Credit would all help our hard-working families who are struggling. We hope our Legislature and new governor will tackle those issues next year.”

The data are collected by the Census Bureau through their American Community Survey, which samples households, extrapolating for the state numbers. The margin of error for young children in poverty is 11 percent.

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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. Our fiscal policy work is funded by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the WK Kellogg Foundation, and the Working Poor Families Project.
625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org