2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Download the full report (Jan. 2018; 70 pages; pdf)
Link to the press release
Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

Introductory Essay: At the Crossroads: Choosing the Path to Child Well-being in New Mexico

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When children are healthy, happy, and doing well in school, the future is brighter for all of us. All children–regardless of where they live, of how much money their parents make, or of the color of their skin–should have the best possible opportunities to reach their full potential. And it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that they do. Laying the foundation for a prosperous future for our state requires us to adequately prepare all of our children to become thriving, contributing New Mexicans.

New Mexico, sadly, too many children lack access to even the most basic resources needed in order to thrive. Child poverty is high. Child well-being is poor. The Land of Enchantment ranks at or near the bottom of the states in too many respects—-job growth, wages, worker benefits like paid sick leave, substance abuse, crime, and unfortunately, child well-being. We see disparities along racial and ethnic lines in nearly every indicator of child well-being. This problem exists across the nation, but what makes this a more pressing issue in New Mexico is that 75 percent of our children are children of color. While the child population in the rest of the nation is moving rapidly toward a minority-majority status, New Mexico is well ahead of the curve, and how we tackle disparities and tear down barriers to success for our children of color will either be an example for other states to follow or a cautionary tale of what to avoid.

New Mexico is at a crossroads. At the national level, we’re seeing a style of governing that is as unpredictable as it is unprecedented. Many of the federally funded programs that New Mexico families rely upon are in grave danger of sharp and sustained budget cuts. We may be daunted by what is happening in Washington, but we are not powerless. At the state level, we are poised to elect a new governor and to choose New Mexico’s House of Representatives. We can choose candidates who stick to the current path or we can empower candidates who opt for a new direction and a commitment to improving conditions for New Mexico’s kids and families. And then we can hold them—-and all of our elected policymakers—-accountable.

We live in a state of extraordinary natural beauty, diverse cultures and traditions, and extremely resilient people. We know which public policies work to strengthen families and improve child outcomes. We do not have to accept poor child well-being as our fate. But we have to demand change.

New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT Story

KIDS COUNT is a nationwide effort to track the status and well-being of children across the nation and in each state in four areas of well-being: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. KIDS COUNT is driven by research showing that the consequences of the events kids experience in childhood are carried with them the rest of their lives. Children’s chances of being healthy, doing well in school, and growing up to be productive and contributing members of society are tied most profoundly to their experiences in the early years. Statistics reported in the New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book show us where we stand, where we’re doing better, and where and how we need to improve. At its heart though, KIDS COUNT tells a story. It tells a story of child well-being and a story of the opportunities that are available to our kids. Unfortunately, in New Mexico, that story isn’t as positive as it should be. In New Mexico, the data show that we’re not doing a very good job at ensuring adequate opportunities for all of our kids to thrive and succeed, and as a result, too many of our kids are struggling. We rank 49th in the nation in overall child well-being according to the KIDS COUNT index. In only one other state are conditions worse for kids. Just as alarming is the fact that we rank poorly in each of the four KIDS COUNT domain areas. We’re 48th in economic well-being; this past year we fell to 50th in education; we’ve made many gains in the health area, and so we are now ranked 37th in this domain; and we are 49th in the family and community domain.

Within these domains are some more alarming parts of the story of child well-being in our state. We have the worst rate of child poverty in the nation, and there are now tens of thousands more New Mexico kids in poverty than there were prior to the Great Recession. Our poverty rate among young children is not only the worst in the nation—and worse than for any other age group in our state—but it continues to worsen. We have the second worst rate of childhood food insecurity. We have high child abuse rates, low reading and math scores, and we rank poorly on access to high-quality early childhood education and care services.

Not only are overall rates problematic across most domains, but disparities exist in nearly every indicator we track with children of color more likely to live in poverty and in high-poverty areas, less likely to have health insurance, less likely to have access to early childhood education, and more likely to be hungry. Unfortunately in New Mexico, children of color, especially Hispanic and Native American children, have higher hurdles to success and face serious challenges at much higher rates than do many of their peers.

NMVC-DataBook2017-graphsWhile it is predicted that nationally, racial or ethnic minority children will make up 55 percent of the child population by 2030, we’re way ahead of that trend. In fact, three-quarters of our kids are children of color. So while our minority child population is strong in number, and our cultural diversity is one of the things that makes New Mexico such a unique and enchanting place, many of our children lack the opportunities they need to flourish.

But equality of opportunity is not something that just happens: it is a product of systems, policies, and programs that work together to lay a foundation for all people to have an equal chance to participate and strive for success in society. This is an area where we can’t make progress for all kids without a deliberate focus on examining the systems that impact kids’ lives and improving resources for kids who are being left behind. The good news for all of our kids is that we know what works. Simply put, policy matters. Research shows that positive experiences and conditions can have powerful and sustained benefits for kids from birth to adulthood—-and they can be supported through targeted public policies. In fact, positive and comprehensive support systems during childhood are associated with better health outcomes, improved test scores, higher graduation rates, and cost savings in remedial education. Again and again, evidence shows that making kids a priority in our budgets matters. Access to health care matters. Home visiting matters. Pre-K matters. Child care assistance and dropout prevention programs matter. Adequately staffing and paying our teachers and our guidance counselors and our protective service caseworkers matters. Tax credits that help hard-working New Mexico families put food on the table matter. And all of these things matter not just for the good they do, but for the harm they prevent and the money they save. In short, we know that investing in our kids and families pays dividends multiple times over for our communities and our state.

We’ve seen first-hand how positive policy changes can improve lives for New Mexico kids in a very concrete way. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act in New Mexico, more than 30,000 more kids now have access to health insurance. Thanks to ongoing efforts of advocates and to commitment on the part of legislators, this year 4,100 more New Mexico kids will benefit from NM Pre-K than did five years ago, and 3,700 more families will have state-funded home visiting services. We’re also seeing significant long-term improvements in teen birth rates, teen drug and alcohol abuse rates, and the percent of teens not in school and not working. In fact, most of New Mexico’s child well-being indicators are improving. While there is still a long way left to go, and while policy change is rarely quick, simple, or easy, there are many areas where we’re making progress, and these areas show that we have the power to make positive changes for our kids through policy. Our amazing state shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be at the bottom of the rankings in child well-being. We can do better. We must do better. There are common-sense solutions to the crises that our kids and families are facing. Each year that we do not invest in those solutions, in our assets, and in our best chances for future success means thousands more New Mexico kids go without the crucial opportunities they need to thrive, to succeed, and to turn the tide for our state.

For far too long, there’s been too much of a focus on asking what we can do for the richest and most powerful among us, for the biggest corporations, but we need to be talking about what we can do for New Mexico families and New Mexico’s kids.

This year is the perfect time to have that conversation. The elections of 2018 are a chance to refocus and bolster our commitment to children and to rewrite the story of child well-being in our state. They are a chance to make children a priority in policy decisions, a chance to ask candidates what they will be doing to strengthen opportunities for our communities, a chance to put policymakers in power who will enact evidence-based policies that can help New Mexico kids succeed.

Because who are we if we don’t prioritize our kids? Nelson Mandela said that “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” New Mexico is ranked 49th in the nation in child well-being. What does that say about our soul, about what we value? The elections are a chance to demand that we treat our children better, to demand that policymakers fully commit to improving opportunities for our kids to thrive. New Mexico has a long and proud history of community, culture, and of innovation. Child well-being is one more area where we need to apply and showcase these strengths in order to improve the story about child well-being in our state.

In the full report, you’ll find more information on how New Mexico’s children and families fare in the KIDS COUNT indicators of well-being. In tracking outcomes, we show differences across races, ethnicities, counties, school districts, and tribal areas, note some encouraging signs as well as outcomes that continue to be discouraging, and outline some proven policy steps that can lead to improvements. The New Mexico KIDS COUNT Data Book serves as a tool and a resource for policymakers, journalists, advocates, and other stakeholders to ensure kids’ needs are taken into account when decisions that impact them are being made.

By both creating opportunities for families to pull themselves up and to share in economic prosperity and also strengthening the programs that provide a safety net for families when they fall on difficult times, we can ensure that all New Mexicans can strive for and achieve success. All children deserve the opportunities and resources they need to thrive and reach their full potential. We’re all in this together, and prioritizing New Mexico kids will make our communities, our economy, and our state stronger. It’s not just the right and the moral thing to do—it is also the smartest possible investment we can make in our state’s future success.

Download the full report (Jan. 2018; 70 pages; pdf)
Link to the press release
Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Race for Results: New Mexico’s children of color face disparities

Children of color and children in immigrant families–most of whom are also children of color–face multiple barriers to success. The Annie E. Casey Foundation explores these issues in this Race for Results policy report, which includes an index measuring how children are progressing on 12 key milestones. The index uses a composite score of these 12 indicators on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons. No state has all children in any racial group meeting all milestones. However, nationally Asian and white children tend to fare better as a whole, while Hispanic, Native American, and Black children are less likely to be meeting milestones. The fact sheet below shows how New Mexico scores on these indicators.

Download this fact sheet (Oct. 24, 2017; 2 pages; pdf)
Link to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results report
Link to our press release
Race for Results NM factsheet-2017Race for Results NM factsheet-20172
Download this fact sheet (Oct. 24, 2017; 2 pages; pdf)
Link to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results report
Link to our press release

New Mexico’s 2017 KIDS COUNT Profile

  • Download this fact sheet, comparing data in this year’s data book to data in last year’s data book (June 13, 2017; 1 page; pdf)
  • Download the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s New Mexico profile, comparing data for New Mexico and the U.S. from this year’s data book to data from previous data books (June 2017; 2 pages; pdf)
  • Download a fact sheet of New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT rankings going back to 1990 (June 2017; 2 pages; pdf)
  • Link to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 national KIDS COUNT Data Book
  • Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center
  • NM KC profile-2017

    KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    2016 KIDS COUNT in New Mexico

    Download the full report (Jan. 2017; 72 pages; pdf)
    Link to the press release
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

    Introductory Essay: Investing in Tomorrow Means Starting Today

    NMVC-DataBook2016-cover

    All children, regardless of where they live, how much money their parents make, or the color of their skin, should have the best possible opportunities to reach their full potential. And if our state is to prosper, we need to make sure all children can develop intellectually, socially and emotionally.

    When children have the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential, we all benefit as they become the doctors, teachers, artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

    Brain science research tells us that the foundations for lifelong success are built early—in the first few years of life. We also know that adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, and abuse weaken those foundations. Investing in our young children is good stewardship of our current and future resources as these investments have been shown to save money down the line while improving outcomes in the short and long terms. And while New Mexico has made strides in increasing investments in the services proven to help kids build strong foundations, we fall short of meeting the need. Unfortunately, the current budget situation in New Mexico is bad and may not improve for the foreseeable future.

    But failing to make these investments in our young children will hurt our state and our economy in the long run. It means missing out on the opportunity to prevent problems now that will only become more costly down the road. New Mexicans understand and support the importance of these investments so in this document we present data to give more context on their importance. This data book tells the story of child well-being in New Mexico. It shows us where we stand, where we’re doing better, and where we need to improve. It serves as a tool and a resource for policy-makers, journalists, advocates, and other stakeholders to ensure kids’ needs are taken into account when decisions that impact them are being made. We invite readers to join us in harnessing the power of data in the fight to improve opportunities for New Mexico’s kids and families.

    New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT Story

    Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national KIDS COUNT program ranks the 50 states in terms of child well-being.States are measured on 16 indicators organized into four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. In 1995, New Mexico was ranked 40th among the states for child well-being—the best our state has fared. By 2009, we had dropped to 43rd. In 2013, for the first time ever, we were ranked last in the nation for child well-being. Every year since then, including this year, New Mexico has ranked 49th among the states on overall child well-being. This report shines a light on our rankings indicator by indicator, shows how the data in each area have changed over time, takes a look at how counties, tribal areas, school districts, and racial and ethnic groups fare in the measures, and recommends some proven steps that we can take to improve the future for our kids and our state.

    Investing in Children

    Too often and for too long, New Mexico’s children have finished as runners-up in the race to be a high priority in policy decisions. We cannot invest in our children unless we have the funding to do so. A strong economy is more likely to produce the revenue we need, but New Mexico’s economy has still not recovered from the Great Recession. For too long, New Mexico has tried to pursue prosperity by offering tax cuts in hope that something good will happen. Clearly this approach has failed. Growth takes investment, which is why you can’t tax-cut your way to broad-based prosperity and good-paying jobs. Our children cannot afford to wait for the promised spoils of tax-cut economics to trickle down to them. New Mexico’s children—the state’s future workforce and leaders—are in crisis now. We must put kids first in policy decisions.

    Children’s chances of being healthy, doing well in school, and growing up to be productive and contributing members of society are tied to their experiences in the early years. Good and nurturing experiences lead to good foundations for success. Sustained bad experiences detract from it. And in New Mexico, too many children suffer from too much of the later and not enough of the former. They don’t always have enough to eat, too often live in poverty, and many don’t benefit from high-quality early childhood care and education services.

    Evidence suggests that poverty and low socioeconomic status are linked to poor health and educational outcomes and may have particularly long-lasting and powerful effects on children. Damage from bad conditions can begin even before birth and continue through the school years and into adulthood. By the same measure, positive child development is linked to improved health and education outcomes, and it is key to successful community and economic development. Knowing this, we cannot afford to allow nearly a third of our children to face such adversity and possibly fail to meet their full potential. Their futures and ours depend too much upon it.

    Luckily, we know what works. Early childhood programs like home visiting, child care assistance, and pre-kindergarten lead to improved child well-being and are linked to significant long-term improvements for children and cost savings for states. So first and foremost, we must invest more in these early childhood programs now. Each year that we don’t invest means another year we’ve failed to prevent the problems that will arise from kids entering school unprepared to learn.

    We also need to sufficiently fund K-12 education and support community schools and school-based health centers, particularly in low-resource communities. We need to make college affordable—not just in the future but now—so today’s parents and parents-to-be can gain the education and skills they need to get jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. And we need to particularly target children in those groups that have largely been left behind—children from low-income families and diverse racial and ethnic groups.

    Investing in Equity

    Laying the foundation for a prosperous future for our state requires us to ensure that we adequately prepare all of our children to become thriving, contributing members of our communities. In order to do this, we have to acknowledge that too often, children of color face higher hurdles to success, hurdles that are products of generations of policy choices. Equality of opportunity is not something that just happens:
    it is a product of systems, policies, and programs that work together to create an atmosphere and foundation for all people to have an equal chance to participate and strive for success in society.

    NMVC-DataBook2016-Figure-IIn New Mexico, children of color face serious challenges at much greater rates than do many of their peers. They tend to have worse outcomes in economic well-being, education, and health, and in fact, racial and ethnic disparities exist in nearly every indicator of child well-being. Children of color are more likely to live in poverty and in high-poverty areas and are less likely to have access to health insurance and high-quality early educational opportunities.

    Racial and ethnic disparities are of a particular concern in New Mexico because 75 percent of New Mexico’s children are children of color (see Figure 1). When disparities are evident among such a big portion of the population, the economic and social price of letting any group fall behind is high and—as demographics become increasingly more diverse—will only continue to grow. We need to pay particular attention to the systems—such as education, foster care, and juvenile justice—that fail these children. We must ensure, for example, that the least-experienced teachers are not all deployed to the schools with the most minority children, as is often the case. We need to determine why minority kids are placed in foster care more often than are white children who come from similar situations. And why minority kids are more often suspended from school, and treated more harshly within the criminal justice system, than white children who commit the same infractions. Preventing these disparities will improve how these systems work for all kids and it will improve outcomes for all of our communities.

    In order to better understand and address racial and ethnic inequity, we need to collect and analyze racial and ethnic data and use it to inform policies and decision making. In order to ensure we’re receiving the greatest return on our investments, we must implement and continue to invest in proven, evidence-based programs that are inclusive of and focused on improving outcomes for children of color.

    Investing in Families

    A child’s well-being is strongly tied to his or her family’s stability and resources. Therefore these data show that, in addition to championing policies that invest in New Mexico’s kids, we must also promote strategies that strengthen New Mexico parents and families. Though life can be hectic for all families, low-income families often live on the edge of financial crisis. A sick child can mean lost work and wages for low-income parents. Living in substandard housing or high-poverty neighborhoods can put them and their children at environmental, health, and safety risk. High-quality early care is out of reach on their limited wages, so their children may bounce from family, to friends, to unlicensed care centers so parents can work. A job loss or a major car repair can sink them into poverty, food insecurity, or even homelessness.

    NMVC-DataBook2016-Figure-IINew Mexico’s high poverty rate—more than 20 percent of New Mexicans live at or below the poverty level—is one of the state’s most challenging problems (see Figure 2). While most other states have recovered from the recession, New Mexico has not. Just as our state cannot thrive when so many of our families are struggling economically, children are more likely to face stressors and adverse childhood experiences that negatively affect their brain development, long-term health, and socio-emotional well-being when their parents struggle.

    However, there are common-sense solutions to our economic problems and to the crisis that our kids and families are facing. In order to give New Mexico families and kids more opportunities to succeed, we must bring together programs for children and adults and take a deliberate and coordinated two-generational approach. All programs that seek to improve child outcomes should be coordinated with improvements in services that address the needs of parents. This two-generational approach is critical.

    Programs like child care assistance, for example, provide direct benefits to children by ensuring they are in safe places to learn, grow, and be nurtured, while also offering low-income parents an affordable option for quality child care while they work. However, our child care assistance program is not well aligned with other programs that help parents go to school or get job training. Without this key bridge between programs, parents are less likely to be able to improve their long-term situation for their kids and families. Tax credits for low-income parents such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and New Mexico’s Working Families Tax Credit boost the incomes of working families to help them afford child care, transportation, housing and food. These credits are proven two-generational solutions that reward work and lift tens of thousands of New Mexico kids and families out of poverty each year. New Mexico should increase the value of its Working Families Tax Credit. New Mexico should also require large employers—particularly those that receive tax breaks—to offer their employees paid family, maternity, and sick leave as well as family-friendly scheduling so working parents can take care of newborns and sick children without the threat of losing employment and a secure source of income for their families.

    Conclusion

    In the full report, you’ll find more information on how New Mexico’s children and families fare in the 16 KIDS COUNT indicators. In tracking outcomes, we show differences across races, ethnicities, and counties, note some encouraging signs as well as outcomes that continue to be discouraging. We encourage you to use this data to help advocate for better outcomes for our state. All children should have access to opportunities and resources they need to reach their full potential. By investing in New Mexico’s kids and families, we can make our communities, our economy, and our state stronger. We’re all in this together, and investing in New Mexico kids is not just the right and the moral thing to do—it is also the smartest course of action to guarantee our state’s future success.

    Figure 1 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, 2015; aside from Hispanic, all races are non-Hispanic.
    Figure 2 Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2015, Table S1701.

    Download the full report (Jan. 2017; 72 pages; pdf)
    Link to the press release
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    Turning Assistance into Opportunity

    Improving TANF and Implementing Two-Generational Solutions to Help New Mexico Families Access Educational Pathways Out of Poverty

    A KIDS COUNT Special Report
    Executive Summary

    December 2016

    Download this executive summary (Dec. 2016; 4 pages; pdf)
    Download the full report by Armelle Casau, Ph.D., and Virva Walkington, MPH (Dec. 2016; 16 pages; pdf)

    Our communities are stronger when we ensure that all parents and children have access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed and thrive. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formerly known as welfare, provides some cash assistance to eligible families with children so they can better afford basic necessities. When welfare was reformed twenty years ago, the cash assistance—with some exceptions—became tied to work or work-related activity requirements. Unfortunately, TANF does not sufficiently address one of the reasons families fall into or remain in poverty: the lack of education credentials and job skills, which present barriers to employment and to getting jobs that pay family-sustaining wages.

    Additionally, while families receiving TANF cash assistance are generally eligible for child care assistance, too little focus is spent on making sure children in TANF families have the opportunity to participate in quality early childhood care and education programs (ECCE), including child care, that increase their school readiness and provide safe learning environments while their parents are at work or furthering their education or training.

    tanf-figure-iA two-generational approach is needed

    Since TANF only serves families with children, the program should use a two-generational approach to help families gain long-term economic self-sufficiency (see Figure I). Because of the strong correlation between poverty and low levels of educational attainment, education is key. When parents increase their education and work skills, subsequent higher incomes improve their family’s living standards as well as their children’s future economic security as adults. When young children participate in quality ECCE programs, their educational outcomes also improve, which helps break the generational cycle of poverty.

    TANF in New Mexico helps too few families with too little assistance

    Considering that the state has the second worst child poverty rate in the nation (28.6 percent) and ranks 49th in overall child well-being according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 KIDS COUNT rankings, the TANF program in New Mexico should better serve our many vulnerable children and their families. Across the state, only 23,432 children—or 17 out of every 100 children living in poverty—were served by TANF in 2015 (see Figure II). The cash assistance is also time limited to 60 months over a lifetime and is too little for a family to live on while parents look for work or attend school. A family of three receives an average of $409 per month. This represents a 30 percent drop from 20 years ago when adjusted for inflation.

    tanf-figure-ii-iii
     

    Children on TANF need increased access to quality ECCE programs

    Since cognitive delays start early in children living in poverty, and children who start behind in school often fall further behind, quality ECCE programs are needed to provide nurturing, stable, and safe environments while promoting school readiness and early reading skills that can set children on a path to success in both school and in life. While the state has increased funding for some ECCE programs, including the NM Pre-K program and home visiting, funding for other programs, like child care assistance, has stagnated. Future ECCE funding is at risk due to current budget pressures, even though the need for all of these programs is not close to being met.

    ECCE programs are also not targeted explicitly enough to TANF families. Almost $31 million of federal TANF funds in FY17 are being used for child care assistance but just 4 percent of New Mexico’s TANF families received child care assistance even though 40 percent of children on TANF are 5 years old or younger (see Figure III). Data are also not collected for how many of the 23,432 children on TANF are benefiting from other ECCE programs like home visiting and NM Pre-K even though nearly $23 million of federal TANF funds are being spent on those two programs.

    tanf-figure-iv

    TANF adults need access to effective education and training programs

    In today’s economy, most family-sustaining jobs require some level of post-secondary education. In New Mexico, 77 percent of projected job openings will require some college education and yet, only 6 percent of the 7,688 TANF adults in the state have more than a high school education (see Figure IV). Parents living in poverty need access to education and training programs as many struggle with academic deficiencies in basic math, reading, and writing or lack college or workforce credentials, all of which makes them non-competitive for most family-sustaining jobs.

    Considering that the TANF program was built around participation in work or work-related activities, New Mexico ought to spend significant amounts of their TANF funding on effective education and training programs. Unfortunately, the state in FY15 spent only 5 percent of its combined federal TANF funds and state maintenance of effort (MOE) funds (referred to as TANF/MOE) on work-related activities for TANF adults (including skills assessment, employment search, and subsidized job training) and zero TANF/MOE funds on education and training programs even though this is an allowable and recommended category under work-related activities.

    Across the nation, workforce development experts are advocating for states to prioritize career pathways programs that move non-traditional, low-skilled adults along an education and training continuum into post-secondary education that leads to credentialing in high-growth industries. New Mexico should follow the lead of other states that are leveraging TANF funds and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to develop and sustain a statewide career pathways frameworks.

    New Mexico’s TANF program should implement two-generational strategies

    We need to ensure that services for both children and parents are linked, aligned, and coordinated in a two-generational approach so these services can do a better job of improving outcomes for the whole family than can services provided in isolation. Strategies the state should adopt include co-designing and co-locating services (e.g. a center-based program where infants are cared for in the same location as parents are developing parenting and work-related skills); targeting programs to TANF families (e.g. setting aside funding for a home visiting program just for TANF families); coordinating between agencies (e.g. hiring a two-generation manager to identify and recommend poverty reductions strategies across agencies); and providing education and training programs with comprehensive supports for parents (e.g. using TANF and WIOA funds to support a career pathways framework that provides tuition, case managers, career coaches, transportation assistance, and child care assistance).

    tanf-figure-v

    We should also do away with New Mexico TANF policies that hurt parents and their children. This includes full-family sanctions, full-family time limits, and the lack of an automatic work exemption for single-parent heads of families with infants. In addition, New Mexico needs to better prioritize its TANF funding to serve the population it’s intended to serve—our many families with children struggling with poverty. New Mexico spends only 40 percent of its TANF/MOE funds on the core TANF activities—basic cash assistance, work and work-related activities, and child care assistance (see Figure V).

    Policy Recommendations

    Implement two-generational TANF strategies so parents and children benefit at the same time
    • Co-design programs and co-locate services for TANF parents and children.
    • Target programs specifically to TANF families and coordinate between agencies to increase prioritization of TANF families.
    • Support career pathways programs that provide comprehensive supports for TANF parents.
    • Increase the minimum wage and provide more opportunities for subsidized job training for TANF parents.

    Change New Mexico TANF rules that hurt children in addition to adults
    • Automatically exempt single-parent heads of families, pregnant women, and mothers of infants from TANF work requirements.
    • Remove full-family TANF sanctions and full-family TANF time limits.

    Better target TANF funding so struggling families can escape the generational cycle of poverty
    • Spend more TANF/MOE funds on education and training activities.
    • Increase TANF cash assistance levels and include cost-of-living adjustments.
    • Use a small percentage of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for ECCE programs.
    • Generate additional state revenues while addressing regressive tax code provisions to support two-generational TANF strategies.

    Download this executive summary (Dec. 2016; 4 pages; pdf)
    Download the full report by Armelle Casau, Ph.D., and Virva Walkington, MPH (Dec. 2016; 16 pages; pdf)

    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center
    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    NM KIDS are COUNTing on Us

    A Campaign for a Better New Mexico

    Policy Agenda logo

    Download this executive summary (June 2016; 8 pages; pdf)
    Download the full campaign (updated June 2016; 24 pages; pdf)
    Note: The full campaign includes information on how our poor child outcomes hurt New Mexico and how each policy solution helps New Mexico.

    This campaign is based on the 4 domains and 16 indicators in the national KIDS COUNT Data Book.

    The domains are: Economic Well-being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.

    All Domains

    Overarching Policy Solutions

    Because the 16 indicators of child well-being are inter-related—as are the policies that would improve them—many of the recommendations address multiple indicators. We have placed these overarching policies separate from the policies that address the indicators more specifically.

    • Ensure that enough tax revenue is collected so that the state budget can fund programs that improve and support the well-being of New Mexico’s children, families, and communities
    • Enact a more progressive income tax so those with the highest incomes pay their fair share.
    • Mandate a tax expenditure budget (TEB) and require accountability measures for tax breaks that are intended to create jobs.
    • Enact economic development initiatives that create high-wage jobs, increase revenue, and invest in our workforce.
    • Ensure that children receive the financial and emotional supports they need during and after a parent’s incarceration.

    Domain: Economic Well-Being

    Overarching Policy Solutions

    • Support programs that take a two-generation approach to improving family economic security.
    • Prioritize a two-generation approach within the TANF program so the primary focus is to provide opportunities to strengthen families through high-leverage education/job training, parenting supports, and early childhood care and education services.
    • Ensure that all workers can earn at least one week of paid sick leave.
    • Enact policies to end wage theft.
    • Enact a rate cap of 36% APR (including fees) on all predatory lending products.
    • Enact policies to end food insecurity.

    Indicator: Children in Poverty

    Extent of the Problem

    • 30% of New Mexico children live at or below the poverty level. Native-American and Hispanic children, however, suffer from disproportionately high poverty rates of 44% and 34%, respectively. The poverty level is an annual income of less than $25,000 for a family of four.

    Policy Solutions: Children in Poverty

    • Raise the statewide minimum wage, index it to rise with inflation, and raise the tipped wage to 60% of the minimum.
    • Increase the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate (LICTR), and Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
    • Support and promote the availability of resources and assistance for grandparents helping to raise their grandchildren, including access to financial resources, legal services, food and housing assistance, medical care, and transportation.
    • Fund navigators to ensure that kinship foster care families have access to benefits for which they are eligible (including TANF, SNAP, Social Security, Medicaid, CHIP, child care and housing assistance, and foster care subsidies).

    Indicator: Children Whose Parents Lack Secure Employment

    Extent of the Problem

    • 36% of New Mexico children have parents who lack full-time, year-round employment. The rate is 55% for Native-American children.

    Policy Solutions: Children Whose Parents Lack Secure Employment

    • Protect the unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund and reinstate benefits for child dependents.
    • Restore eligibility for child care assistance to twice the poverty level.
    • Expand access to high school equivalency, adult basic education (ABE), job training, and career pathways programs.

    Indicator: Children Living in Households with a High Housing Cost Burden

    Extent of the Problem

    • 31% of New Mexico children live in households that spend 30% or more of their income on housing. The rate is 38% for Hispanic children.

    Policy Solutions: Children in Households with a High Housing Cost Burden

    • Safeguard the Home Loan Protection Act from repeal or weakening.
    • Increase funding for individual development accounts (IDAs) for parents and children.
    • Increase funding for the state’s Housing Trust Fund and increase federal HUD funding.

    Indicator: Teens Not in School and Not Working

    Extent of the Problem

    • 9% of New Mexico teens ages 16 to 19 are neither enrolled in school nor working.

    Policy Solutions: Teens Not in School and Not Working

    • Enact initiatives to lower the cost of college such as: making lottery scholarships need-based; restoring the College Affordability Fund; lowering interest rates for student loans; and ending the predatory practices of private, for-profit colleges.

    Domain: Education

    Overarching Policy Solutions

    • Increase spending on high-quality home visiting/parent coaching.
    • Increase funding for child care to incentivize and adequately compensate for quality.
    • Increase training, technical assistance, compensation, and retention incentives for pre-K and other early learning providers.
    • Pass a constitutional amendment to support early care and education with a small percentage of the Land Grant Permanent Fund.
    • Increase funding for the Family Infant Toddler (FIT) program.
    • Sufficiently fund K-12 education, starting with restoring per-pupil, inflation-adjusted funding to pre-recession levels.
    • Ensure support for community schools that offer school-based health care, after-school and mentor services, English as a second language classes, etc.
    • Raise compensation for teachers, principals, and other student support staff.
    • Revisit zero-tolerance policies and penalties in order to keep more students in school.
    • Expand programs that increase school attendance.
    • Reduce class sizes for children in high-poverty areas.

    Indicator: Children Not Attending Preschool

    Extent of the Problem

    • 59% of New Mexico children ages 3 and 4 are not attending a preschool program such as pre-kindergarten or Head Start. Rates are actually best for Native American kids, at 53%. The rate for non-Hispanic white kids is 59% and 64% for Hispanic kids.

    Policy Solutions: Children Not Attending Preschool

    • Increase spending on high-quality pre-K so it is available to all 4-year-olds.
    • Pass President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal.

    Indicator: 4th Graders Not Proficient in Reading

    Extent of the Problem

    • 77% of New Mexico 4th graders are not proficient in reading. The rates are a staggering 93% for Native-American 4th graders and 83% for Hispanic 4th graders.

    Policy Solutions: 4th Graders Not Proficient in Reading

    • Increase learning opportunities by expanding the school day and year, and expand K-3 Plus to 8th grade for low-income students.
    • Increase the availability of reading coaches and support evidence-based reading initiatives.

    Indicator: 8th Graders Not Proficient in Math

    Extent of the Problem

    • 79% of New Mexico 8th graders are not proficient in math. The rates are 89% for Native-American 8th graders, 88% for Blacks, and 83% for Hispanics.

    Policy Solutions: 8th Graders Not Proficient in Math

    • Expand after-school, mentorship, and tutoring programs.
    • Provide math coaches and professional development for math teachers.

    Indicator: High School Students Not Graduating on Time

    Extent of the Problem

    • 28% of New Mexico high school students do not graduate on time. Rates are highest among Blacks (35%) and Native Americans (28%).

    Policy Solutions: High School Students Not Graduating on Time

    • Provide more school counselors.
    • Identify students in 9th grade who require additional learning time and provide free summer school, after-school, and online learning opportunities.
    • Provide relevant learning opportunities through service learning and dual credit parity to better prepare students for career or college.
    • Provide professional development for teachers on the use of technology.
    • Support dropout recovery programs.
    • Provide support for vulnerable students (those experiencing homelessness, who are incarcerated, need special education, are English language learners, etc.) who are at risk for dropping out.
    • Increase funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.

    Domain: Health

    Overarching Policy Solutions

    • Support early childhood services committees within county and tribal health councils in order to integrate health care with social, emotional/behavioral, and cognitive development for young children.
    • Require and fund child screening for adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
    • Expand and adequately fund school-based health centers (SBHCs).
    • Pass and fund legislation to license dental therapists to provide limited dental care under the supervision of a dentist, especially in rural, tribal, and other under-served communities.
    • Ensure that all workers can earn at least one week of paid sick leave.

    Indicator: Low Birth-Weight Babies

    Extent of the Problem

    • 8.8% of New Mexico babies are born weighing less than 5.5 pounds. Rates are highest among Blacks (14%).

    Policy Solutions: Low Birth-Weight Babies

    • Expand outreach to pregnant women to enroll them in Medicaid early in their pregnancies.
    • Expand and fully fund health and nutrition programs for pregnant teens.
    • Fund home visiting under a Medicaid waiver to draw down federal funding.

    Indicator: Children without Health Insurance

    Extent of the Problem

    • 7% of New Mexico children lack health insurance. The rate of uninsurance for Native-American children is 11%.

    Policy Solutions: Children without Health Insurance

    • Restore outreach and enrollment assistance for Medicaid for kids.
    • Simplify the enrollment and re-certification process for Medicaid and enact express-lane enrollment.
    • Integrate the health insurance marketplace with Medicaid so that there is “no wrong door” for enrollment.

    Indicator: Child and Teen Death Rate

    Extent of the Problem

    • New Mexico’s child and teen death rate is 31 deaths per 100,000 children aged 1 to 19. The rate is 38 per 100,000 Native-American children and teens.

    Policy Solutions: Child and Teen Death Rate

    • Enact gun safety laws to limit unauthorized child access to guns.
    • Adequately fund evidence-based child abuse prevention programs and strengthen CYFD’s role in child abuse prevention.
    • Increase funding for child protective services to expand staff levels and reduce case loads.
    • Create a citizen oversight or review board for all CYFD child abuse cases that result in death.
    • Increase funding for suicide prevention programs.

    Indicator: Teens Who Abuse Alcohol or Drugs

    Extent of the Problem

    • 5% of New Mexico teens ages 12 to 17 had abused or were dependent on alcohol or drugs during the year prior to taking the survey.

    Policy Solutions: Teens Who Abuse Alcohol or Drugs

    • Expand mental health programs for children, youth and families.
    • Allow treatment instead of incarceration for drug and alcohol offenses.

    Domain: Family and Community

    Indicator: Children in Single-Parent Families

    Extent of the Problem

    • 41% of New Mexico children live with an unmarried parent. Rates are highest among Native-American children, 65% of whom live in single-parent families.

    Policy Solutions: Children in Single-Parent Families

    • Expand funding for mentorship services.
    • Maintain current Medicaid eligibility for family planning services.
    • Restore eligibility for child care assistance to twice the poverty level so single parents can work.

    Indicator: Children in Families where Household Head Lacks High School Diploma

    Extent of the Problem

    • 18% of NM children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma. The rate is highest for Hispanic children at 24%.

    Policy Solutions: Children in Families where Household Head Lacks High School Diploma

    • Provide additional need-based financial assistance for low-income and low-skilled adults seeking access to post-secondary education, job training, and career pathway programs.
    • Expand access to high school equivalency, adult basic education (ABE), job training, and the career pathways pilot program I-BEST.

    Indicator: Children Living in High-Poverty Areas

    Extent of the Problem

    • 26% of New Mexico children live in areas where the overall poverty rate is 30% or higher. Rates are more than double that for Native-American children, 59% of whom live in high-poverty areas.

    Policy Solutions: Children Living in High-Poverty Areas

    • Create or expand incentives for developers to build mixed-income housing developments.
    • Increase funding for individual development accounts (IDAs) for parents and children.
    • Reduce class sizes for children in high-poverty areas.

    Indicator: Teen Birth Rate

    Extent of the Problem

    • New Mexico’s teen birth rate is 38 births per 1,000 female teens ages 15 to 19. Rates are 56 per 1,000 for both Hispanic and Native-American teens.

    Policy Solutions: Teen Birth Rate

    • Provide relevant learning opportunities through service learning.
    • Increase funding for evidence-based programs (such as home visiting) that prevent or delay second births by teen mothers.
    • Expand school-based health centers (SBHCs).
    • Increase funding for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.
    • Expand evidence-based and age-appropriate sex education; defund abstinence-only programs.

    Download this executive summary (June 2016; 8 pages; pdf)
    Download the full campaign (updated June 2016; 24 pages; pdf)
    Note: The full campaign includes information on how our poor child outcomes hurt New Mexico and how each policy solution helps New Mexico.

    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    New Mexico’s 2016 KIDS COUNT Profile

    Download this fact sheet (June 21, 2016; 1 page; pdf)
    Download a fact sheet of New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT rankings going back to 1990 (June 21, 2016; 2 pages; pdf)
    Link to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 national
    KIDS COUNT Data Book

    NM KC profile-2016

    Download this fact sheet (June 21, 2016; 1 page; pdf)
    Download a fact sheet of New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT rankings going back to 1990 (June 21, 2016; 2 pages; pdf)
    Link to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 national
    KIDS COUNT Data Book

    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    2015 KIDS COUNT in New Mexico

    Download the full report with all the data (Jan. 2016; 72 pages)
    Link to the press release
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

    NMKC 2015 CoverIntroductory essay: The Race toward Equity for All Children

    by Amber Wallin, MPA
    All children―regardless of social and economic status, race or ethnicity―should have the best possible shot at reaching their full potential. For children, the possibilities are limitless, but one’s potential is not achieved by accident. Every child needs the opportunities and support systems to reach their goals. Kids born into middle- and upper-income families are likely to have those opportunities and support systems. Children born into poverty are not. If we want poor children to thrive, to become the best people they can be, we must ensure that those opportunities and support systems are there for them too.

    The data in the following pages tell the story of child well-being in New Mexico. For too many children, they tell a tale of struggle. The numbers show us where we stand and where we need to improve, and they serve as a tool and a resource for policy-makers, journalists, and advocates to ensure kids’ voices are heard. We invite readers to harness the power of data in the fight to improve the status of New Mexico’s kids and families.

    Where Do We Stand? New Mexico’s KIDS COUNT Story

    Each year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national KIDS COUNT program ranks the 50 states in terms of child well-being. States are measured on 16 indicators in four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. In 1995, New Mexico was ranked 40th among the states for child well-being, the best our state has ever fared. By 2009, we had dropped to 43rd. In 2013, for the first time ever, we were ranked last for child well-being. Currently, New Mexico ranks 49th among the states on overall child well-being.

    This report shines a light on our ranking, indicator by indicator, shows how the data in each area have changed over time, takes a look at how counties, tribal areas, school districts, and racial and ethnic groups fare in the indicators measured, and recommends some proven steps we can take to improve our kids’ and our state’s futures.

    Too many in New Mexico have become complacent about our state’s poor standings, but enough is enough. We must focus on making improvements. Our kids are not all right, and we can and must do better by them. Our future depends on it—but we must make the necessary investments today. In order to improve child well-being in New Mexico and guarantee our state’s future success, we must make children a priority, champion racial and ethnic equity, and focus on implementing two-generation solutions that simultaneously bolster kids and their families.

    What Can We Do? Put Children First

    Too often and for too long, we have treated children as lesser priorities in policy decisions. Many fiscal policies are targeted towards businesses to the detriment of other priorities. When it comes to children, some lawmakers take a wait-and-see attitude, as though childhood can be put on hold until other priorities have been met. But we can no longer afford to wait for good fortune to trickle down to our kids. New Mexico’s children—the state’s future generations—are in crisis now. We must put kids first in all policy decisions.

    Children’s chances of being healthy, doing well in school, and growing up to be productive and contributing members of society are tied to their experiences in the early years—from before birth up through age five. And in New Mexico, too many young children do not always get enough to eat, go without the kind of early childhood care and education that will put them on the path to success, and are held back by the consequences of living in poverty. Nearly one-third of our children live at or below the poverty level (just $24,250 for a family of four) and New Mexico now has the highest rate of child poverty in the nation.

    There is an undeniable correlation between poverty and poor outcomes in health and education, and there is no doubt that many aspects of poverty—chronic stress, familial instability, and the lack of economic security, among them—have long-lasting and powerful effects on children, the impacts of which continue into adulthood. By the same measure, growing up in positive, secure environments is linked to improved health and education outcomes, and is key to successful community and economic development. Knowing this, we cannot afford to allow nearly a third of our children to face such adversity and possibly fail to meet their full potential. Their future and ours depend too much upon it.

    Luckily, we know what works. High-quality early childhood programs like home visiting, child care, and pre-K lead to improved child well-being and are linked to significant long-term improvements for children and savings for states. So first and foremost, we must invest more in high-quality early childhood programs now. Every year that we fail to invest enough money to serve all vulnerable children means more kids who are likely to enter school unprepared to learn.

    We also need to align these programs with public education, sufficiently fund K-12 education, and support community schools and school-based health centers. We also know that when parents are better educated, their children do better in school and life, so we need to make college affordable and put more adults on career pathways to improve their employability. And in order to ensure that those children with the fewest resources can still pursue their dreams, we need to invest in programs that target improvements towards low-income, and racial and ethnic minority families and children.

    Support Racial and Ethnic Equity

    Laying the foundation for a prosperous future for our state requires us to ensure that we adequately prepare all of our children to become thriving, contributing members of our communities. In order to do this, we have to acknowledge that, too often, children of color may face more hurdles to success, and we must act deliberately to close racial and ethnic equity gaps.

    NMKC-ChildPop-R-E

    No matter where they live in New Mexico, no matter how much their parents earn, and no matter the color of their skin, all of New Mexico’s children should have access to opportunities to succeed. But equality of opportunity is not something that just happens: it is a product of systems, policies, and programs that work together to create an atmosphere and foundation for people to have an equal chance to participate in and strive for success in society. Disparities are also no accident. They come about because of structural forces that erect and maintain persistent, pervasive barriers to opportunities.

    All across the nation children of color are lagging behind in economic well-being, education, and health outcomes. Racial and ethnic disparities exist in nearly every indicator of child well-being. Children of color are more likely to live in poverty and in high-poverty areas, and are less likely to live in two-parent families than white children. They are more likely to be born at a low birthweight and less likely to have access to high-quality early education. Early health, economic, and learning disadvantages contribute to lower percentages of children of color who are proficient in reading and math, graduate from high school, attend college, and earn advanced degrees.

    Perhaps nowhere in the United States is racial and ethnic equity an issue of greater importance than in New Mexico where these severe and increasing disparities—especially among children—are particularly worrisome. While whites make up the majority population in most states and in the nation overall, New Mexico is a minority-majority state, with just 40 percent of our population identifying as non-Hispanic white. Among children, that demographic reality is even more pronounced: 75 percent of New Mexico’s children are racial or ethnic minorities. With racial and ethnic minorities such a significant proportion of our population, the economic and social price of letting any group fall behind is high and—as demographics become increasingly more diverse—will only continue to grow.

    In order to better understand and address racial and ethnic inequity, we need to collect and analyze data along racial and ethnic lines and use it to inform policies and decision making. In order to see the greatest positive impact on children of color, we need direct policy solutions and investments towards communities, areas, or districts with high percentages of children of color. In order to ensure we’re receiving the greatest return on our investments, we must implement and continue to invest in proven, evidence-based programs that are inclusive of and focused on improving outcomes for children of color.

    Expand Early Childhood Services and Implement Two-Generation Solutions

    Parents are also plagued by the disparities that run along racial and ethnic lines. Research shows that a child’s well-being is strongly tied to his or her family’s stability and resources, and so in addition to championing policies that are best for New Mexico’s kids, policy-makers should also promote strategies that increase the strength of New Mexico parents and families. Any programs that seek to improve child outcomes should be coordinated with services that address the needs of parents. What’s known as a “two-generation approach” is critical.

    NMKC-PopPov-R-E

    Though life can be hectic for all families, low-income families often tread a precarious line between stability and financial crisis. A sick child can mean lost work and wages for low-income parents. Living in substandard housing or high-poverty neighborhoods can put the health and safety of them and their children at risk. High-quality early care is generally out of the question on their limited wages, and this cost, plus their often chaotic work schedule, means their children may bounce between family, friends and unlicensed care centers. A job loss or a major expense like a car repair can drive them into homelessness. Low-income families of color face additional structural barriers, such as lower wages, fewer job opportunities, higher interest rates, and more.

    The state’s high poverty rate—over 21 percent—is one of New Mexico’s most challenging problems. While most other states have recovered from the recession, New Mexico’s economic recovery has flat-lined. Just as our state cannot thrive when so many of our families are struggling economically, children cannot thrive when they face stressors and adverse experiences that negatively affect their brain development, long-term health, and socio-emotional well-being.

    However, there are common-sense solutions to our economic problems and to the crisis that our kids and families are facing. To be most effective, these solutions should include a deliberate and coordinated two-generational approach. The state’s child care assistance program is one that would benefit from such an approach. It was created as a work support for parents, so little emphasis was put on ensuring that children receive the highest-quality experience possible, which would help prepare them for success in school. Greatly increasing the quality of care—which would require greater funding—would result in a program that had much broader benefits not just for the families it serves but for the state as a whole.

    Other income, wage, and work-support programs help provide practical pathways out of poverty for entire families. Tax credits for low-income parents such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and New Mexico’s Working Families Tax Credit boost the incomes of working families, helping them afford basic necessities as well as large expenses such as job training programs or a car repair. These credits are proven programs that reward work and lift tens of thousands of New Mexico kids and families out of poverty each year. Career pathways, job training, and apprenticeship programs also support families by helping parents develop the tools and skills they need to succeed. In turn, better-educated parents tend to raise better-educated children. Paid family, maternity, and sick leave options for workers as well as family-friendly scheduling help working parents take care of children in times of need without the threat of losing employment and a secure source of income for their families. Home visiting services model healthy parenting practices and help connect families with community resources—benefiting both the parents and the children in the families that receive these services.

    Conclusion

    In the data pages for this report, you’ll find more information on how New Mexico’s children and families fare in the 16 KIDS COUNT indicators. In tracking outcomes, we show differences across races, ethnicities, and counties, note some encouraging signs as well as outcomes that continue to be discouraging, and outline some proven policy steps that can lead to improvements.

    All children should have access to the opportunities and resources they need to reach their full potential. By investing in New Mexico kids and families, we can make our communities, our economy, and our state stronger. We’re all in this together, and investing in New Mexico kids is not just the right and the moral thing to do—it is also the smartest course of action to guarantee our state’s future success.

    Download the full report with all the data (Jan. 2016; 72 pages)
    Link to the press release
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation on the KIDS COUNT Data Center

    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    Native American Children and Families in New Mexico: Strengths and Challenges

    Native American Kids Count cover

    Snapshots from the American Community Survey and Other Data Sources

    A New Mexico KIDS COUNT 2012 Special Report

    Download the full report (Dec. 2012; 58 pages; pdf)
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation here

    Introduction

    by Christine Hollis, MPH, MPS
    Native Americans make up just 1.7 percent of the United States population. In New Mexico, however, they comprise a much larger share of the total population. Native Americans are 10.6 percent of the New Mexico population.1 This report covers 22 tribal communities in New Mexico; 19 pueblos and three tribes spanning five reservations. The pueblo lands range over eight counties and cover more than two million acres. The Navajo Nation spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. (For this report, only data for Navajos living on New Mexico reservations are used. For all tribes and pueblos, members not living on reservations or pueblos are included in the numbers for all New Mexico Native Americans.)

    It should be noted that the criteria for child and family well-being used in this report come from the dominant white American culture. Some Native American people have differing criteria for “poverty,” for example. Poverty may be defined as a loss of traditional culture rather than earning a low income. In addition, New Mexico’s Native American communities have many strengths not necessarily reflected by the indicators used in this report. One capacity mentioned here is the high rate of children and youth who speak English and a language other than English; research is showing that preschoolers speaking more than one language may have better problem-solving skills than monolingual children. New Mexico’s Native American communities also have unique cultural identities beyond the use of tribal languages and other traditions. For example, unlike many tribes across the U.S. who were displaced from ancestral lands, most of the state’s tribes and pueblos have largely maintained or regained this important connection. Having a tangible tie to tradition and the land has a positive impact on community well-being in ways not measured in this report.

    Report Highlights

    Demographics: The section of the Navajo Nation that lies within the boundaries of New Mexico has the largest population (62,028) of the Native American communities in the state, while Zuni Pueblo has the second largest (10,537). Many of the pueblos are quite small, having populations of 2,000 or less. In addition, people of other races and mixed race/ethnicity live on tribal lands. In several pueblos, as much as 75 percent of the residents are non-Natives.

    Demographically, New Mexico’s Native American pueblos and tribes differ from each other and from the state’s population as a whole. In eight communities, for example, the population of very young children (ages 0 to 5) makes up 10 percent or more of the tribe’s population, a rate higher than that of the state as a whole.

    Economic Security and Housing: Economic conditions vary greatly among New Mexico communities, including tribal communities. Poverty—defined as living at or below the federal poverty level ($23,050 for a family of four)—is generally high in Indian country. Just over 25 percent of all New Mexico children under age 18 live in poverty versus 40 percent of all Native American children in the state. Yet, in only six of the tribal communities are more than 30 percent of children living there in poverty. Almost one in five (18 percent) of all New Mexicans live in poverty. Again, the rate is significantly higher for all Native Americans in the state, at 31 percent. However, Native Americans living on pueblo or reservation lands appear to have a small advantage; only in three of the tribal communities is the rate of poverty higher than that for the state’s Native Americans as a whole.

    It is interesting to note that six Native American communities report a higher median household income than that of the state, which is $43,820. In only eight tribal communities, a greater number of children live in a household headed by a single mother than in homes headed by a married couple. Although more children living with a single parent live with a mother than a father, in 10 communities, a higher percentage of children living in poverty live in a household headed by a single male, rather than a female. This trend is somewhat different than that of New Mexico as a whole.

    A family’s financial situation with regard to the federal poverty level is only one way of gauging the well-being of families and children. Another measure of economic security is to consider the other financial assets and resources families have—such as savings, interest from investments, and rental income—that can help them weather a financial downturn, likes the loss of a job or overwhelming medical expenses. In New Mexico, about one-fifth (21 percent) of all households have income including interest, dividends, and rental income. Few of the tribes covered in this report meet that percentage level, with some exceptions—among them the Jicarilla Apache, which reports 40 percent of its households having this type of income.

    The number or percent of households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) support (formerly “food stamps”) is often used as an indicator of “food security”—a measure of the ability of a family or household to ensure access to essential nutrition for its members. It is also linked to levels of poverty. In New Mexico, which is considered a “poor” state, up to 10 percent of all households—and 16 percent of Native American households—receive SNAP benefits.

    Native American families with children have lower rates than the state as a whole when it comes to parents having secure (full-time, year-round) employment. In 20 percent of all New Mexico families with children, neither parent has had secure employment in the past year. Only in Isleta, San Ildefonso, and Jicarilla did less than 20 percent of families not have secure employment. In many of the tribal communities, up to a third or more of families had no secure employment. Eleven percent of all New Mexico children—and 22 percent of Native American children—live in families where no parent is in the labor force. In eight pueblos (Acoma, Cochiti, Jemez, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara and Zia) a much lower percent of children face this situation.

    New Mexico’s Native Americans tend to fare better than the rest of the state’s population in terms of housing costs. A high housing cost burden is defined as paying 30 percent or more of family income on rent or mortgage. In the state as a whole, more than one-third (38 percent) of households pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. In all Native American communities covered in this report, much smaller proportions of householders carry a high housing cost burden, with Laguna Pueblo having one of the lowest rates. One exception to this is Taos Pueblo, where 30 percent of households face high housing costs.

    However, these data on the cost of housing should be balanced by information from reports over the years that find that housing conditions for Native Americans throughout the United States continue to be much worse than those for the nation as a whole.2 Nationally, roughly 40 percent of Native Americans lived or live in overcrowded or physically inadequate (poor quality, lack of complete plumbing, etc.) housing conditions.3

    Education and Language: New Mexico’s Native American communities perform well in educating young children. In three-quarters (77 percent) of the state’s Native American communities, a high percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds are reported to be attending preschool (which includes the category “nursery school”). The rates of these children attending preschool range from 25 percent in Pojoaque to 100 percent in Nambé. (However, population sizes for 3- to 4-year-olds in these areas are often quite small.) The overall state enrollment rate for 3- and 4-year-olds is 39 percent, while the overall rate for all Native American preschoolers is 47 percent. Research shows that participation in a system of high-quality early childhood care and education services—from birth to age 5—greatly improves a child’s chances of success in education, health, and in the workforce.

    The wording of the American Community Survey question does not clarify what those responding to this enrollment question meant by “preschool” or “nursery school.” Thus, 3- and 4-year olds may be attending licensed child care centers, registered family homes, Head Start, Early Head Start, preschool, or something else. Some of these programs, like Head Start, are of higher quality than others. However, the high rates of attendance do indicate a potential path to improved educational, health, and economic outcomes for Native American children.

    NAKC-NM map

    Native languages are spoken in all of New Mexico’s tribes and pueblos, though to varying degrees. A high proportion of Native American children ages 5 to 17 living in their communities speak a language other than English, and a very high percentage of these youth also speak English “very well.” Due to the way the American Community Survey question is phrased, it is not possible to report with accuracy how many children are truly bilingual—fluent in both languages. However, a higher percent of Native American children (34 percent) speak English and another language than do New Mexico children as a whole (26 percent). Tribes with more than half of their children reporting they speak two languages include Acoma, Cochiti, Jemez, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, Zia, and Zuni. Few Native American children, except among the Navajo, are reported to be linguistically isolated (defined as having “no family member older than 14 years old who speaks English well”).

    Increasing evidence has shown that bilingualism, especially among young children, improves the brain’s executive functions and cognitive ability. Preschool children who speak more than one language have shown greater ability to solve mental puzzles than monolingual children.4 For this reason, efforts to promote bilingualism in Native American—and all schools—are of great value. Preserving one’s Native language also has great cultural value.

    While language competency is a big plus for Native American children, it may not necessarily translate to high literacy levels. Not all of the native languages spoken in New Mexico have a written component, and cultural traditions have generally placed more value on oral story telling than on reading or writing. Whether or not this is a factor in the English reading scores of Native American students is uncertain, but it is certainly worth further study.

    In only four of the tribal communities in New Mexico, do a greater percent of youth (ages 18 to 24) than those in the state as a whole have either a high school diploma or higher level of education. In Santa Ana and Pojoaque nearly 90 percent of youth have a high school diploma or higher. These rates rest predominantly on the numbers of youth who graduated from high school; many fewer young Native Americans living in the pueblo or reservation communities are attending or have attended a college or university.

    Only Pojoaque (34 percent), San Ildefonso (33 percent), and Zuni (31 percent) come close to meeting the state enrollment rate (35 percent) for youth ages 18 to 24 in higher education. In four tribal communities, the percentage is exceptionally low; for example, only 2 percent of youth in Tesuque and 4 percent in Mescalero are enrolled. Yet when we also consider the data for Native American youth who live outside the tribal community boundaries, the enrollment rate rises—27 percent for all Native Americans ages 18 to 24 living in New Mexico as a whole, and 35 percent for those in Albuquerque. This may indicate that enrollment rates are lower in pueblo and reservation communities because the young people are no longer living at home and are attending higher education institutions located outside the pueblos or reservations.

    Another indicator may be cause for concern—the percent of teens ages 16 to 19 who are not in school or working (sometimes referred to as “disconnected” youth). Eleven percent of all teens in this age group in New Mexico are in this category, yet in only seven tribal communities is the percent of disconnected teens at or below the rate for the state. Some Native American communities have much higher rates, as in Nambé Pueblo, where 69 percent of teens are not in school or working. This may also be a reflection of a lack of employment opportunities in the areas where these teens live.

    A Key Indicator of Success: 4th Grade Reading Scores

    The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses nationally representative samples of 4th grade students on their reading proficiency every two years. Reading proficiency by 4th grade is considered a “make-or-break benchmark” as to whether a child will succeed in school—and in life. This is because children “learn how to read” up to 4th grade; after this, they must “read to learn,” i.e. use their reading skills to learn other subjects like math and science.5 A student who is not proficient in reading by 4th grade may find later subject texts incomprehensible, become frustrated, and fall behind other students in school performance. Such students often face potential grade retention, and may develop social and behavioral problems. Children who are not proficient readers by 4th grade are more likely to drop out or not graduate from high school.6

    New Mexico ranks at the bottom of all 50 states in the percent of all 4th graders who can read proficiently; 80 percent of our 4th graders cannot read at this level. The result for Native American 4th graders in New Mexico schools is even more worrisome, as only 12 percent could read proficiently in 2011, the most recent assessment. Figure 1 shows how well all New Mexico’s 4th graders performed and how well Native American 4th graders performed in the 2007, 2009, and 2011 assessments.

    NAKC-Figure 1

    Since 2005, the NAEP has also administered the National Indian Education Study (NIES) every two years. This assessment provides more in-depth reporting on the academic performance and progress of U.S. Native American students in 4th and 8th grades. The NIES is conducted in 12 states—including New Mexico—that have large Native American populations, which means sample sizes are large enough to report results for Native American students. National results are based on representative samples of Native American students in public and private schools, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, and Department of Defense schools. Native American students participating in the NIES survey also take part in the NAEP assessment.

    NAKC-Figure 2
    Nationally, only 14 percent of Native American 4th graders performed at the proficient level in the 2011 NIES; 29 percent read at the basic level. In general, those Native American students in public schools scored about 22 points higher than those attending BIE schools. The scores of New Mexico 4th graders were lower than the national average, and the percentage of Native American students scoring at or above the basic level in this state were also lower. However, it should be noted that the percentage of New Mexico Native American 4th graders scoring at the proficient level increased from 2005 to 2011.

    Figure 2 shows the trend in NIES student scoring from 2005 to 2011.7 Research shows that children’s participation in high-quality early childhood care and education improves their readiness for school and their 4th grade reading scores. As both of these indicators are contributors to future academic and workplace success, it is essential that New Mexico move forward quickly on policies supportive of a solid early childhood care and education system in the state, so all children can succeed.

    Endnotes

    1. U.S. Census, 2010.
    2. Housing Assistance Council. (1999). Cost Based Appraisals on Native American Trust Lands: A Longitudinal Analysis. Washington, D.C.: Housing Assistance Council.
    3. Youmans, R. (2002). Native American Housing Needs and Proposed Recommendations. Background Paper done for the Millennial Housing Commission. Washington, D.C.: Federal Housing Finance Board.
    4. Hollis, C. (2012). Immigration Matters in New Mexico: How KIDS COUNT. Albuquerque, NM: NM Voices for Children.
    5. Fiester, L. & Smith, R. (2010). Learning to Read—Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters: A KIDS COUNT Special Report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
    6. Ibid.
    7. National Center on Educational Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. (2011). National Indian Education Study 2011: The Educational Experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native Students at Grades 4 and 8. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.

    Download the full report (Dec. 2012; 58 pages; pdf)
    Find more data for New Mexico and the nation here

    NM KIDS COUNT is a program of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.