Toward an Equitable Recovery

Download the full data book (Jan. 2022; 91 pgs; pdf)
Slides from the press conference are here. (Jan. 2022; 14 slides; pdf)
Find more data for New Mexico and the U.S. at the KIDS COUNT Data Center


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico’s kids were just beginning to see stronger and more plentiful opportunities to thrive. This was due to improvements in public policies that impact child and family well-being in the state. As the global pandemic exacerbated existing systemic racial and gender inequities, our state’s much-needed, nascent progress toward better childhood outcomes has been threatened and, in some cases, damaged. Despite myriad challenges, many of New Mexico’s leaders worked to limit harm by protecting investments in our families and communities. Now with federal relief funding and a better revenue outlook than anticipated, lawmakers have the opportunity to make significant strategic investments that will guide us toward an equitable recovery while putting children, families, and communities of color first in policy in a way that ensures a bright future for all New Mexicans moving forward.

The federal government has made historic, but temporary, investments and policy decisions to alleviate some of the impacts of COVID-19, with economic stimulus payments, expanded unemployment insurance, food security supports for school-aged kids, rental assistance, and the expanded Child Tax Credit providing many families with crucial financial supports in the face of tremendous hardship.

During the 2021 legislative session and throughout the pandemic, New Mexico’s elected leaders built on this relief by taking steps to address some of the immediate needs of New Mexico’s children and working families, as well as several that focus on creating a better future with more opportunities for kids and communities of color in our state. Among them are:

  • Emergency economic relief for immigrants and others who were left out of federal stimulus payments.
  • Crucial hunger relief for families most in need.
  • Relief payments for essential workers.
  • A ballot initiative to pass a constitutional amendment to invest 1.25% of the $24 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund in children, resulting in a new long-term revenue source for early childhood education and K-12 schools.
  • A paid sick leave policy, which will allow workers in the private sector to accrue paid sick leave in order to care for themselves or loved ones when they are sick without losing wages.
  • An increase and expansion of the state’s Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate for the first time since the 1990s, which raised the income level for eligibility, increased the amount of the rebate, and indexed it to inflation so it doesn’t lose value over time.
  • An increase and expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit, making it 25% of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and including for the first time childless young adults and those who file taxes with an ITIN.
  • A temporary change in child care assistance eligibility made by the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which will allow families with incomes up to 350% of the federal poverty rate to qualify for aid.

In many ways, New Mexico’s response to COVID-19 has been a success story, as crisis response policies have often been centered on child and family economic security and health. But we also saw more disparities as the pandemic impacted women and families of color more dramatically. More workers of color, who are more likely to be essential workers in low-wage jobs, lost employment income. Too many children, particularly students from low-income families and students of color, still don’t have high-speed internet at home, resulting in larger academic losses as a result of unfinished learning than white or more affluent students. And we know that even our successes point to the great need that has always existed for many working families – it should not take a pandemic for working families to receive the help they need to fully provide for their children’s basic physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Moving forward, we have a unique opportunity to restructure our systems, create more equitable policies, and all rise together as a stronger, more just New Mexico. By making meaningful and equitable investments to support child and family well-being, our leaders and lawmakers can fight poverty and racism with policies that center racial and economic equity. As New Mexico emerges from the long crisis of COVID-19, we can make policy decisions and investments in our communities that move us toward not only an equitable recovery, but a more equitable future for generations to come. 

New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT Story

KIDS COUNT is a nationwide effort to track the status and well-being of children in each state and across the nation in four areas – economic well-being, education, health, and family and community – measuring four indicators in each of these domains, for a total of 16 tracked indicators, for which you’ll find data in the pdf of this publication. You’ll find policy recommendations in each area for improving the tracked indicators, and you’ll also find data on several additional indicators tracking the COVID-19 experiences of families and children. KIDS COUNT is driven by research showing that children’s chances of being healthy, doing well in school, and growing up to be productive and thriving members of society can be influenced by their experience in the early years.

At its heart, KIDS COUNT tells a story of child well-being that’s set against a backdrop of the opportunities we’ve made available to our kids. Each year, the story is incomplete as the data alone cannot tell us why things are the way they are – how we got here and how we can improve things. Due to pandemic challenges in data collection, the story is more incomplete than usual. In response, we’ve included additional context where we can. The data also paint a picture of child well-being from a deficit perspective – a perspective that sadly ignores the extraordinary resilience of our children, families, and state. That story can be found among New Mexico’s unique cultural and linguistic diversity, centuries-old traditions, and our enduring sense of community.

The data also tell us where we have been rather than where we are or where we are going. COVID-19 resulted in challenges with national data collection, leaving question marks about the full impact of the pandemic on child well-being in 2020. There are still dramatic levels of uncertainty for children and families, and there continues to be a nationwide effort to gather almost real-time data on hardships and the impact of new policies to guide our lawmakers. While this year’s Data Book reflects some of the effects of the pandemic and recession, we don’t yet know the full impacts of many of the ways COVID-19 or early recovery policies affected different racial and ethnic groups, but we have included some hardship and policy impact data to better indicate the disparities in the pandemic’s impact and the need for more permanent and recovery policies that center racial equity and child well-being.

When all is said and done though, KIDS COUNT is a snapshot – an accurate, if incomplete, picture of one point in time. For policymakers and advocates alike, it is an invaluable tool meant to make us take stock of how well we are protecting and nurturing our greatest asset – New Mexico’s children.

A Note About Data

Wherever possible, data are disaggregated to help provide a clearer understanding of disparities by race and ethnicity. In the past, New Mexico Voices for Children has reported data sets from organizations that suppress data for some races because the data are derived from small sample sizes, which means the estimates are less accurate. We recognize this as problematic given our country’s long history of cultural erasure and New Mexico’s tricultural myth. In response, we are including more 2019 data disaggregated by all races and ethnicities when possible. These data will include a note regarding high margins of error for smaller demographic groups so readers are aware that some estimates may be less reliable than others. Some rural and tribal areas in New Mexico are also undercounted in U.S. Census data and can be underrepresented in other sources. A significant amount of 2020 data are not available for all races, ethnicities, or tribes due to pandemic challenges in data collection. As a result, the statistics throughout this report tell an even more limited story, and in some cases, the numbers don’t reflect people’s lived experiences. New Mexico Voices for Children is committed to continuing to engage with the communities represented in these data to better understand the stories, voices, and people behind the numbers. We are also committed to engaging with the communities left out of this data and advocating for better, more accurate, and inclusive data.

Download the full data book (Jan. 2022; 91 pgs; pdf)
Slides from the press conference are here. (Jan. 2022; 14 slides; pdf)
Find more data for New Mexico and the U.S. at the KIDS COUNT Data Center