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Childhood Poverty Threatens Adult Success for New Mexico Children

February 23, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Where poverty is more concentrated, it becomes harder to climb out - and a report released today says that's the case for 100,000 children in New Mexico.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation defines a high-poverty neighborhood as an area in which 30 percent or more of the population is poor.

The good news in the report is that the situation has improved for about 2,000 children in New Mexico. While that sounds promising, Chris Hollis, New Mexico KIDS COUNT director with New Mexico Voices for Children, says 2 percent doesn't represent substantial improvement.

"New Mexico has always been in the bottom five states in terms of children in poverty. It is still second in terms of having the worst statistics of children in areas of concentrated poverty."

The KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot offers a number of approaches to improve the chances of success for families in high-poverty communities. Hollis believes addressing early childhood needs is New Mexico's best bet for breaking the cycle of poverty.

New Mexico suffered a significant setback in addressing some of the effects of growing up in high-poverty communities during the 2012 legislative session, Hollis says.

"The resolution to use money for early childhood education never did make it out of the Legislature."

The numbers in the Snapshot are especially discouraging for New Mexicans of American Indian and Latino heritage. Laura Speer, the Casey Foundation's associate director of policy reform, points to the findings that show minority children face especially difficult challenges.
"For children of color in the United States, they're much more likely to have poverty within their households be compounded by also living in a high-poverty neighborhood and all the things that that means."

Children of color are the majority in New Mexico. The Data Snapshot finds minority children to be six to nine times more likely than white children to live in high-poverty communities.

Effects of concentrated poverty which can undermine a child's chances of adult economic success start to appear when neighborhood poverty rates rise above 20 percent. New Mexico has particularly high concentrations of children living in high-poverty communities in Luna and Doña Ana counties, with their Latino populations, and McKinley County with its Native American population.

The full report is online at

Beth Blakeman/Alfonso López-Collada, Public News Service - NM