by Hiram Reisner, InsideSources
June 21, 2019

New Mexico was again ranked 50th out of the 50 states for child well-being by the 2019 edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book. This is the third time in the last decade the state has placed last in the nation: New Mexico fell to 50th in 2013 and in 2018.

James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the results were not surprising. The group is a nonpartisan, statewide advocacy organization, which works to improve the lives of New Mexico’s children.

“New Mexico tried for too long to tax-cut its way to prosperity, and the dismal results should surprise no one. We know that the best way to prosperity is with investments,” Jimenez told InsideSources.

“That means investing in the public structures and services — like education, health care, and infrastructure — that our families, communities, and businesses rely upon,” Jimenez said. “The one notable investment we did make over the past decade was the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

“Not only did this lead to a huge reduction in the rate of kids without health insurance, it’s also accounted for the lion’s share of job growth that we’ve seen since the start of the recession.”

Meanwhile, on the upper end of the Data Book, New Hampshire ranked first, although the state slid in some important areas.

The biggest drop for New Hampshire came in the category of economic well-being. New Hampshire fell from third in the 2018 report to 10th in the latest. Some of the contributing conditions were that 25 percent of children lived with parents who did not have a secure job and 26 percent resided with parents who were paying too high housing costs.

New Hampshire usually ranks in the top five of all states of the Data Book — and most states in New England closely follow, according to the NH Union Leader.

“New Hampshire is consistently ranked a top state to raise a family, but we cannot become complacent,” Rebecca Woitkowski, early childhood policy coordinator at New Futures Kids Count said in a statement. New Futures Kids Count ensures New Hampshire-based data is collected and put to use for Granite State children and families.

“In order to continue to promote equity and reduce the negative impacts of our child protection, mental health and substance use crises, lawmakers must continue to prioritize family support services, like home visiting and other services offered at family resource centers,” Woitkowski said.

The Data Book uses the latest statistics available to rank the 50 states on 16 gauges of child well-being organized in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Most of the data is from 2017, but the state rankings in the 2019 interactive Data Book are from 2018 and 2019, a Casey Foundation spokesman told InsideSources.

As it did in 2018, New Mexico ranked 50th in the education domain, but this year the state fell to 50th in the family and community area, dropping from 49th. The state placed the same this year as last in economic security (49th) and health (48th).

Some of the data showed slight improvement. New Mexico’s child poverty rate dropped slightly from 30 percent in the 2018 Data Book to 27 percent, raising the ranking to 48th from 49th. New Mexico’s teen birth rate continued to improve.

New Mexico child advocates point to the recent legislative session for hope the state’s status will improve.

“We made some real strides toward increasing our investments in children during the 2019 legislative session,” Amber Wallin, deputy director for New Mexico Voices, said in a statement.

“However, it takes some time before improvements in public policy show up in measurable changes to child well-being,” she said. “Our ranking is also dependent upon how well other states are doing and most states made the kinds of investments during the recession that led to quicker, more robust recoveries than New Mexico did.”

One of the policies the legislature enacted this year was an increase in the state’s Working Families Tax Credit, which benefits more than 200,000 children annually. About $450 million also was appropriated to the state’s K-12 schools.

New Mexico Voices for Children is holding its 7th Annual KIDS COUNT Conference in Albuquerque on Wednesday, June 26. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will give the keynote address and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller will give opening remarks.

Copyright 2019, InsideSources (https://www.insidesources.com/new-mexico-ranks-last-nationwide-for-child-well-being-new-hampshire-first-2/)