From Staff and Wire Reports, Las Cruces Sun-News
June 17, 2019

LAS CRUCES – New Mexico is once again ranked 50th out of the 50 states for child well-being. This is the third time the state has ranked last in the nation. New Mexico fell to 50th in 2013, then again in 2018.

Louisiana ranked 49th this year, bumping Mississippi up to 48th. New Hampshire ranked first.

The rankings comes from the Kids Count Data Book, released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Data Book ranks the 50 states on 16 indicators of child well-being that are organized under four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

MORE: Report: New Mexico programs can do more for mothers, kids

This year, New Mexico fell to 50th in the family and community domain, dropping from 49th. The state ranked the same this year as last in the other three domains: education (50th), economic security (49th) and health (48th).

Bright spots

There were some bright spots in the data. The state’s child poverty rate dropped slightly from 30 percent in the 2018 Data Book to 27 percent in this year’s report. That pulled the ranking in that measure up to 48th from 49th.

Also, New Mexico’s teen birth rate continued to improve. The teen birth rate is now 28 births for every 1,000 females ages 15 to 19. That’s less than half what it was in the 2012 Data Book — 60 births per 1,000 female teens.

The share of New Mexico children without insurance dropped slightly and the state’s rank improved to 27th, up from 30th.

MORE: New Mexico moves to limit eligibility for child care aid

Child advocates hope to see bigger improvements in the future.

“We made some real strides toward increasing our investments in children during the 2019 legislative session,” said Amber Wallin, deputy director for NM Voices, which administers the state’s Kids Count program. “However, it takes some time before improvements in public policy show up in measurable changes to child well-being.”

Southwest childhood poverty

The Kids Count report found that 18% of the nation’s children live in poverty, down from the Great Recession.

But the same advances weren’t seen in the Southwest, where many children are Native Americans, Latinos and immigrants who have long faced disadvantages.

“The nation’s racial inequities remain deep, systemic and stubbornly persistent,” said the annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

MORE: Kids Count report: New Mexico remains 48th in nation in child poverty

“Thirteen million children continue to live in poverty in spite of the economic growth that we have seen recently, and low unemployment,” said Leslie Boissiere, a vice president at the foundation.

“In those border states, it’s as many as one in five. So you’re seeing a higher rate of poverty among children in those states.”

Other stats

The share of children without health insurance increased slightly in 2017, the most recent year studied, but remains near an all-time low at 5%. That was attributed in large part to state Medicaid programs and provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Since 1990, however, the national rate of childhood poverty has remained unchanged.

Nationwide, the share of children with at least one immigrant parent has doubled since 1990 to 26%, the report found.

Fifteen states with fastest growing child populations owe that growth mainly to an influx from other states along with birth and death rates — not international immigration, the foundation said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright 2019 Las Cruces Sun-News (https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/2019/06/17/new-mexico-ranks-last-childhood-well-being-kids-count-data-book/1482579001/)