“The biggest thing we see is the overall rate of poverty for kids under 18 dropped from 9.2 percent [in 2020] to 5.2 percent [in 2021],” she said.
New Mexico voters can also take action by voting Yes on Constitutional Amendment 1 on the ballot in November. Constitutional Amendment 1 would draw down a small portion of the $26 billion permanent school fund to support high-quality early childhood care and education services — such as home visiting and pre-kindergarten — and services for at-risk students.
“What this data reflects is mostly pre-pandemic conditions,” Wallin told NM Political Report. “It’s reflective of the times before all the big policy changes in New Mexico. This data doesn’t capture all the changes we’ve seen in recent years.”
“[The data] doesn’t necessarily reflect many of the policy changes we’ve seen at a state level,” New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director Amber Wallin said in an interview Monday. “When the data catches up to the policy, we expect to see continued improvement for New Mexico’s children and families.”
What’s not reflected in the data book is “great policy progress in the past few years that put kids first,” she said, noting a number of legislative changes made from 2019 forward. “Among them are the new child tax credit, the doubling of the tax credit for working families with kids and the expansion of child care systems to most every kid in New Mexico,” she said.
“Literacy and poverty are closely tied together, and they can reinforce each other through generations,” said Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “If a child is living in poverty and facing difficult financial challenges, then one of the things that could come along with that is that their parents may have less time to work with them at home on reading and homework, particularly if the parents are working two jobs.”
New Mexico’s leaders have taken many actions to protect and support children and families through this uncertainty, including hunger relief funding, emergency economic relief for those left out of federal stimulus payments, a new paid-sick-leave policy, and an increase and expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit, which will put money in the hands of families who will spend it quickly and locally to provide for their children’s basic needs. These actions prevented us from losing all the progress we’ve been working for to improve well-being for all of our children.
Students that do not graduate on time are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attend college, according to the data book. Adults without a high school diploma are also more likely to have low-paying jobs, not have benefits and have higher unemployment rates.
While the number of households receiving SNAP benefits provides one view of the state’s need to address hunger, Emily Wildau, a research and policy analyst with Voices for Children, says it’s important to “look at poverty, unemployment, homeownership, and…a cost of food index,” to understand how hunger affects youths in the state. These factors, Wildau says, outline the parameters of those experiencing “food insecurity.”
Amber Wallin, deputy director, said that Chaves County’s outcomes are often tied closely to the fortunes of the oil and gas industry. “Those are things like poverty rates, child abuse rates that are linked to that,” said Wallin. “We know when parents have steady wages and good steady income that is a good predictor of how children are doing.” She added that the pandemic had a dramatically different effect on people depending on their social circumstances.