by Juliana Vadnais, Albuquerque Business First
June 21, 2016

The news out of the 2016 Kids Count Data Book shows New Mexico unchanged from last year in overall ranking of child well-being. The state remains at 49th out of 50, the third year it has ranked next-to-last, only coming in above Mississippi.

“This makes it more difficult to attract businesses to New Mexico,” Veronica Garcia, Ed.D., executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said. “What attracts them is an educated workforce and good child well-being. [This ranking] is counterproductive for business.”

New Mexico fell to 50th place in education, after remaining at 49 for four years. Children not attending preschool improved slightly, down 1 percent to 59 percent. Fourth graders not proficient in reading also slightly improved, from 79 percent in 2013 to 77 percent in 2015. Eighth graders not proficient in math saw the opposite — rising from 77 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2015. The state’s high school graduation rate also worsened, increasing to 28 percent of high schoolers not graduating on time.

While the percentage of children living at or below poverty level improved to 30 percent in 2014 from 31 percent in 2013, the state fell to last place in that category as other states improved more.

“Poverty is the single most important factor because it correlates with other issues and impacts child well-being across the board,” Garcia said.

The federal poverty definition consists of a series of thresholds based on family size and composition. In calendar year 2014, a family of two adults and two children fell in the “poverty” category if their annual income fell below $24,008. The median family income among households with children was $50,900 in Albuquerque in 2014.

Other factors that worsened in this report include the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas, child and teen death rates and children whose parents lack secure employment.

The bright spot in the report shows New Mexico ranks 44th in the nation in health, up from 48th last year. The percentage of children without health insurance continued to fall, from 9 percent in 2013 to 7 percent in 2014.

“This is due to Medicaid expansion,” Garcia said. “This is important because it is an example of how public policy can make a big difference in outcomes for children.”

In 2013-2014, 5 percent of teens abused alcohol or drugs, a continued improvement from 2012-2013 when it was 7 percent and from 2007-2008 when the rate was 9 percent.

The annual Kids Count conference will be held at Marriott Pyramid on June 27.

New Mexico fell to the bottom overall in 2013 when it ranked 50th out of 50 states. That is the only year the state has landed at the very bottom. 

Copyright 2016, Albuquerque Business First (