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Statistics That Fail to Enchant

November 14, 2011

SANTA FE, N.M. - The numbers are in, and the Land of Enchantment holds down fourth place for the highest percentage of people living in poverty for the past 12 months in the United States. Only the state of Mississippi, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico rank lower.

The CEO and president of the organization Prosperity Works, Ona Porter, says the issues around poverty are those of economic justice. The idea that someone works full-time and still lives in poverty should not be tolerated in the richest nation in the world.

"We need to do lots of work in our state, starting at the very beginning about what's happening in terms of support for families, for their parenting, early childhood education, affordable child care and also affordable health care for New Mexicans."

Poverty status is determined by comparing annual income with a set of dollar values that vary by family size. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the change in the poverty rate for New Mexico increased 2.5 percent in 2009-2010.

Prosperity Works is allied with The Center for American Progress, which is engaged in the "Half in Ten" campaign, an effort to cut the poverty rate in the country by 50 percent in ten years. But Porter says New Mexico has a long way to go because it's one of the worst-performing states in terms of measurements of poverty.

"What does that mean? It means the quality of jobs that we have in New Mexico is really poor. It means that people are having to work two and three jobs and still not being able to live a decent life above the poverty level."

Desmond Brown, consultant with the "Half in Ten" campaign, says that, out of 13 poverty indicators, New Mexico performs better than the rest of the nation only in available affordable housing and in the number of children in foster care.

Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM