- State improves in some areas, worsens in others
ALBUQUERQUE—For the first time New Mexico has fallen to the bottom slot—ranking 50 in the nation in overall child well-being in the 2013 national KIDS COUNT Data Book.
New Mexico has never ranked above 40 in the publication’s 20-plus year history, but this is the first time the state has ranked dead last. Last year, New Mexico ranked 49 and Mississippi was 50. The data book, released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks the 50 states on 16 indicators of child well-being, classified under categories such as economic security, education, and heath.
“This report must serve as a serious wake-up call to New Mexico’s leaders. It’s time to make significant investments in young children. We will continue to rank at the bottom until we make kids our highest priority,” said Veronica C García, Ed.D., Executive Director for New Mexico Voices for Children.
The state’s ongoing inability to recover from the recession is to blame for some of the drop to 50. New Mexico’s child poverty rate continues to increase, especially for young children. More children are living in single-parent families, which puts them at greater risk for poverty, and more children live in families where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment.
“While investments in young children are essential to improving poor outcomes, these economic indicators tell us that we also need to invest in working parents,” García said. “Parents need to earn a living wage, and they need adequate work supports like high-quality, affordable child care. They also need help improving their own educational levels.”
While New Mexico is doing worse in some indicators, the change in rankings is more closely tied to the fact that Mississippi is doing better. Over the past decade Mississippi saw improvement in two indicators that are key to predicting a child’s educational success—the percentages of children attending preschool and of children whose parents finished high school. New Mexico has not seen improvement in these two indicators.
“More than 60 percent of our children are not attending preschool and 22 percent of our children live in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma. These children will already be behind when they start school and they’ll be unlikely to catch up,” García said. “As a state we must continue to focus on high-leverage strategies to improve New Mexico’s national standings if we are ever to improve our graduation rates and see lasting economic development.”
NM Voices for Children will release the national data book today at the New Mexico KIDS COUNT Conference: 3rd Grade Counts!, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid, 5151 San Francisco Rd. NE.
The 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book and New Mexico fact sheet are available online at http://datacenter.kidscount.org. KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico’s children, families and communities, visit www.nmvoices.org