by ABQJournal News Staff, Albuquerque Journal
June 21, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico, for the third year running, remained 49th out of 50 states for child well-being but did show some improvements, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book survey from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“The biggest bright spot was our ranking in the health domain, which rose from 48th last year to 44th this year,” said Amber Wallin, MPA, the New Mexico Kids Count director.

“We can give a lot of the credit for this improvement on the fact that New Mexico chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “Some 35,000 kids who were already eligible for Medicaid but who were not signed up received insurance when their parents enrolled. States that didn’t expand Medicaid didn’t see such a dramatic increase in children with health insurance. It just goes to show that public policies can lead to dramatic improvements for our children.”

Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director Voices for Children, which runs the state’s Kids Count program, said, “some of our success is overshadowed by the fact that other states are seeing more significant improvement. Once again, New Mexico is falling behind.”

The Data Book ranks states on 16 indicators grouped under four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. They include percentage of children in poverty to fourth grade reading proficiency to the percentage of children without health insurance and teen birth rates.

The report showed that New Mexico fell to 50th place in the education domain after being placed at 49 the past four years.

“Overall, we’ve been improving slightly in the education domain, especially in preschool attendance,” said García. “Making strong gains in the rankings is difficult, because as all states make improvements, they move upwards together.”

The state also fell to 50 in child poverty, even though New Mexico’s rate of child poverty – 30 percent – fell slightly from 31 percent in last year’s Data Book.

The single most significant indicator impacting child well-being continues to be New Mexico’s high child poverty rate, according to García.

“When our kids aren’t doing well it’s because their families aren’t doing well,” she said. “And when our families are struggling that means our state’s economy is struggling.”

In the overall rankings, Mississippi ranked 50th.

Copyright 2016, Albuquerque Journal