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Despite Small Advances, NM Child Well-Being Stuck at 50th Nationwide

As the result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of New Mexico children without health insurance continued to drop in 2018, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Victoria_Borodinova/Pixabay)
As the result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of New Mexico children without health insurance continued to drop in 2018, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. (Victoria_Borodinova/Pixabay)
June 22, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A yearly report that looks at indicators of child well-being shows New Mexico in last place among the 50 states, but there is some good news. Improvement was noted in more than half the categories tracked by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The group's "Kids Count Data Book" looks at economic, education, and health issues, and others related to children's well-being and family stability. James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, said the last-place ranking is disappointing, but the overall improvement in 10 of the 16 indicators is encouraging.

"So that's a positive thing - not as much as we'd like, and maybe some other states are improving more than we are, but at the same time, at least 10 of those indicators moved in the right direction," Jimenez said.

One improvement in New Mexico was the child poverty rate, which, at 26% in 2018, was the lowest it's been in nearly a decade.

While the report uses the most recent data available, Jimenez said all of it predates the current pandemic and economic slowdown.

He noted the state is also seeing improvement in fewer low-birth-weight babies, and a continued drop in teen birth rates. The birth rate per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 was 25 in this year's Data Book, down from 66 a decade ago.

"That is indicative of a really substantive change in the way that young women are thinking about child-bearing," Jimenez said. "And it's been true for over a decade now, is this continued drop in teen birth rates."

He said he's optimistic that the state's newly formed Early Childhood Education and Care Department could dramatically improve the numbers for education in future reports. But he added the governor and lawmakers need to continue their financial commitment to children and families.

Disclosure: New Mexico Voices for Children/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM