Child Advocacy Organization Releases Annual Data Book Today
Jan. 22, 2024
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sharon Kayne, Communications Director, NM Voices for Children, email@example.com
OR: Alex McCausland, Graphics and Social Media Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Child well-being in New Mexico appears to be slowly improving. As history has shown us, fighting poverty is a policy choice. This was made clear by the pandemic-era changes in the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC). The CTC expansion led to the largest decrease in national child poverty on record. Not only did child poverty dramatically decline, but the gaps between the poverty rates for children of color and those for white children also narrowed. Not surprisingly, the year after the federal CTC expansion expired, the gaps in poverty by race and ethnicity widened again. Still, child poverty in New Mexico remains lower than it did a decade ago.
This is among the findings in the 2023 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book, which was released today.
This annual accounting of child well-being in the state tracks several indicators across four domains: economic security, education, health, and family and community. Indicators include issues such as child poverty and food insecurity rates, parental employment and education levels, and teen birth rates. The report is released at the beginning of the legislative session each year to give lawmakers an idea of some of the needs of our children and families. The report uses the most recent data available.
“New Mexico lawmakers have been working hard to improve child well-being, including decreasing child poverty, and we’re beginning to see that show up in the data despite the pandemic’s impact on families,” said Emily Wildau, Senior Research and Policy Analyst/KIDS COUNT Coordinator for NM Voices for Children and report author. “We expect to see continued improvement next year, as the state CTC can be claimed for the first time this year,” she added.
Among the positive trends:
- Child poverty has held steady, having dropped to 24% in 2021 and 2022 from 29% in 2012, which is in keeping with the national downward trend;
- We’ve seen a decrease (from 12% to 9%) in the last decade in the rate of teens who are not in school and not working – often referred to as ‘disconnected youth’;
- The rate of students not graduating on time improved again, dropping to 23% in 2019-2020 from 33% in 2009-2010;
- We’re only 1 percentage point above the national rate (11%) for children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, with gains for Hispanic, Native, and Black kids in this indicator, which shows a solid downward trend over the decade (dropping from 22% in 2011 to 12% in 2021); and
- The teen birth rate continued to improve (dropping to 19 per 1,000 teens in 2021 from 49 per 1,000 in 2011). While the national rate has also decreased, New Mexico has improved more rapidly, closing the gap with the national rate.
Among the not positive trends:
- Absenteeism remains high, with 39% of all students chronically absent in 2022-23;
- New Mexico has a higher rate of children with asthma problems (9%) than the national average (7%); and
- Child and teen death rates, which have been climbing since 2017, shot up to 43 per 100,000 children and teens in 2021 from 34 per 100,000 in 2011.
“Since guns have overtaken automobile accidents as the highest cause of death among children, we’re hoping to see death rates decline now that lawmakers are focused on evidence-based solutions to reducing gun deaths among children,” said Bill Jordan, NM Voices’ Interim Co-Director/Government Relations Officer. “As we know, there’s always a gap between when legislation is enacted and when we begin to see the changes show up in the data.”
This year’s data book has an emphasis on the importance of considering racial and gender equity in all policies. Also, for the first time the report includes data on breastfeeding as well as environmental health as it relates to child well-being.
“We felt it was especially important to add indicators that have to do with environmental factors like clean air and extreme heat, since we’re experiencing more climate change-related weather events,” said Wildau. “So we added child and youth asthma rates, schools and students living near oil and gas well, and temperatures above the 95th percentile. As an oil and gas producing state, these indicators should impact how lawmakers choose to address the impacts of the fossil fuel industry.”
Aside from data, the annual report also includes policies for lawmakers to consider that would improve child well-being. Among those are increasing the state Child Tax Credit for low-income families with young children – because child poverty rates are highest among young children –as well as improving child care access and early educator wages, diversifying the state’s revenue streams to decrease our over-reliance on oil and gas revenue, and supporting economic opportunity measures such as paid family and medical leave.
The 2023 New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book: Choosing Equity in All Policies is available online at www.nmvoices.org/archives/18575.
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. 625 Silver Ave. SW, Suite 195, Albuquerque, NM 87102; 505-244-9505 (p); www.nmvoices.org