What is it with New Mexico and Kids?

by | Jul 29, 2023 | News and Interviews, Newsletters

On June 14, 2023, the New Mexico Voices for Children released the “2023 Kids Count Data Book, State Trends In Child Well Being.” The annual “Kids Count” Data Book is prepared by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It assesses how New Mexico children are faring in a number of areas including economic well being, education, health, and family and community.


 New Mexico ranked 50th in child well being in the 2023 report and ranked 50th in child well being in 2020, 2019 and 2018, and ranked 49th from 2017 through 2014.

There are 4 major areas of concentration in the Kids Count Data Book with each having 4 indicators. The 4 areas of concentration are:

  1. Economic Well Being consists of 4 components: 1.  Children in poverty, 2. Children whose parents lack secure employment, 3. Children living in households with a high housing cost burden, 4. Teens not in school and not working.

New Mexico ranked 49th in ECONOMIC WELL-BEING with 24% of New Mexico children living in poverty, 35% whose parents lack secure employment, 26% living in households with a high housing cost burden, and 12% of teens not in school and not working.  Only Louisiana was below us!

  1. Education is comprised of 4 parts: 1. Young children not in school, 2. Fourth-graders not proficient in reading, 3. Eighth-graders not proficient in math, 4. High school students not graduating on time.

New Mexico ranked 50th in education, with 59% of young children ages 3 to 4 not in school, 4th graders not proficient in reading grew from 76% to 79%, 87% of eighth graders not proficient in math and 23% of high school students not graduating on time.

  1. HEALTH contains 4 factors: 1. Low birth-weight babies, 2. Children without health insurance, 3. Child and teen deaths per 100,000, 4. Children and teens who are overweight or obese.

New Mexico was 44th in health rankings, with 9.4% low birth weight babies, 6% children without health insurance, 217 child and teen deaths per 100,000, and the state ranking 36th in children and teens who were overweight or obese. The states that were worse off in Health than us were Alabama, Wyoming, South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

  1. FAMILY AND COMMUNITY consisting of 4 factors: 1. Children in single-parent families, 2. Children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, 3. Children living in high-poverty areas, 4. Teen births per 1,000.

New Mexico ranked 48th in family and community with 44% of children living with single parent families, 12% of children living in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, children living in high poverty areas 19% and the state having a 19% teen birth rate per 1,000 births.  Only Louisiana and Mississippi were below us.

Data Note: Most of the data in the report were from 1 to 2 years old.

Progress and Deterioration

The report shows progress for New Mexico in 6 of the 16 areas identified in the report.  Since 2010, New Mexico has seen a 20% improvement in child poverty. New Mexico students not graduating high school on time has improved by 38% since 2010. The number of New Mexico children who lack health insurance has improved by 45% and teen births in the state have improved by 64% since 2010.

Conversely, there was deterioration in 5 of the areas, 2 from Education, 2 from Economic Well Being, and 1 from Health.


The results from the Casey Foundation study are TERRIBLE.  There is no way to sugarcoat this disaster.  It took a long time for this situation to develop and it will take a long time to improve it.  We are akin to an aircraft carrier cruising along at flank speed to the west and then trying to make a 180-degree turn to the east.  Not going to happen right away.

When New Mexico is at the bottom of the social ladder for children, along with the likes of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and South Carolina from the Deep South, it is an embarrassment.  These states have been led by conservatives (first Democrats and then Republicans) for over 100 years!  In our state, except for the years from 2011 to 2019, when a Republican controlled the governorship, and a very short time (2014-2015) when they controlled the House, the state has had Democratic leadership for quite a while.  New Mexico has ranked 49th or 50th every year since 2012.

In 2022, voters approved tapping the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for roughly $240 million annually for early childhood education and K-12 schools.  This is in addition to $961 million allocated by the legislature in 2020 for early childhood, Native American and higher education. The additional distribution of funding from the Permanent Land Grant Fund went into effect on July 1. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department recently reported it will experience a 68% increase in funding for Fiscal Year 2024.

These sums of money are substantial for a state with about 2 million people.  Yet, this infusion of resources needs to be sustained for a longer period of time in order to make headway with systemic problems.  The commitment to improve child welfare in our state needs to be continuous, foremost, and unwavering into the future.  Intense pressure needs to be brought to bear on politicians and decision makers at all levels by all of us.

Excerpted from Pete Dinelli’s Blog of June 29, 2023.





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