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New Mexico, Doña Ana County children continue to struggle, ‘Kids Count’ report shows

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“Child well-being (in New Mexico) was steadily improving prior to the onset of the pandemic, and much of that was due to changes in public policies that made kids and working families a priority,” said Amber Wallin, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, which released its 2021 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book during a Jan. 19 virtual news conference.

The survey of child well-being in the state measures economic security, education, health and family and community. Indicators include child poverty and food insecurity, parental employment and education levels and teen birth rates.

Kids Count data “is a snapshot of how well we are protecting and nurturing our greatest asset – New Mexico’s children,” according to the report.

Download the full report at www.nmvoices.org/archives/16481.

Findings from the report include:

  • About 61 percent of New Mexico children (ages birth to 17) are Hispanic, 24 percent are non-Hispanic white, 11 percent are Native American, 2 percent are Black, 1 percent are Asian, 6 percent are two or more races and 9 percent are some other race.
  • Of children ages 0-4, there are 14,013 in Doña Ana County, 126,150 in New Mexico and 19,767,670 in the United States. Of children ages 0-17, there are 53,614 in Doña Ana County, 488,476 in New Mexico and 73,429,392 in the U.S. The total population, all ages, for each is Doña Ana County: 216,069, New Mexico: 2,092,454, U.S.: 324,697,795.
  • The average unemployment rate in New Mexico in 2021 was 7.6 percent, compared to 5.5 percent nationally. Of New Mexico households with children that lost employment income in 2021, 28 percent were Hispanic, 10 percent were non-Hispanic white and 14 percent were two or more races or other races. The average for all races is 19 percent in New Mexico and 20 percent nationwide.
  • Of New Mexico households with children that had difficulty paying for usual household expenses (including food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses, student loans) in the previous week, 41 percent were Hispanic and 27 percent were non-Hispanic white. The average for all races was 38 percent in New Mexico and 35 percent nationwide.
  • Of New Mexico households with children where children were not eating enough because food was unaffordable (2021), 36 percent were Hispanic and 11 percent were non-Hispanic white. The average for all races was 29 percent in New Mexico and 35 percent nationwide.
  • Of New Mexico households with children that have little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment (2021), 27 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were non-Hispanic white and 24 percent were two or more races or other race. The average for all races was 19 percent in New Mexico and 17 percent nationwide.
  • The percentage of New Mexico children living in poverty was about 25 percent in 2019 and projected to continue a downward trend in 2021. The figure was more than 30 percent in 2011 and 2013. Nationally, about 17 percent of children were living in poverty in 2019, with that figure also expected to continue a downward trend. The national child poverty rate was about 24 percent in 2011 and 2012.
  • 40.1 percent of Native American children were living in poverty (2015-19), 32.4 percent of Black or African American children, 30.1 percent of Hispanic children, 23 percent of children of two or more races, 13.7 percent of non-Hispanic white children and 8.9 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children.

In Doña Ana County, 38 percent of children (tied with Harding County and lower only than McKinley, Mora, Quay and Sierra counties) and 26 percent of people of all ages (tied with Cibola and Hidalgo counties and lower only than Luna, McKinley, San Miguel and Sierra counties) were living in poverty.

Statewide, 27 percent of children and 19 percent of people of all ages were living in poverty. Nationwide, 19 percent of children and 13 percent of people of all ages were living in poverty.

About 18 percent of New Mexicans of all ages were living in poverty in 2019, compared to about 22 percent in 2011 and 2013. About 12 percent of people of all ages nationwide were living in poverty in 2019, compared to about 16 percent in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The report added this: “The rate and number of New Mexico children living in poverty appears to have decreased from 2019 to 2020. It is likely that policies such as pandemic economic relief prevented increases or, in some cases, resulted in decreases in child poverty. However, with 116,000 or 25 percent of our children living at or below the federal poverty level (FPL), New Mexico still ranks poorly at 48th in the nation in child poverty. By the onset of the pandemic and its resulting recession, most other states had recovered from the Great Recession, but New Mexico’s economy had not quite fully rebounded, which means more families were vulnerable to falling into poverty than had the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.”

  • The average household income, 2015-19, was $40,973 in Doña Ana County, $49,754 statewide and $62,843 nationwide. 14 percent of Doña Ana County families with children had no parent working, compared to 11 percent statewide and 8 percent nationwide.
  • Among New Mexico households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in 2019 included 27 percent of Native American households, 25 percent of Black or African American households, 21 percent of Hispanic households, 14 percent of Asian households and 10 percent non-Hispanic white households. 24 percent of households in Doña Ana County received SNAP assistance, compared to 16 percent of households of all races statewide and 11 percent nationwide.
  • Child food insecurity was projected to reach 29 percent in Doña Ana County in 2020, comparted to 26 percent statewide and 20 percent nationwide.
  • 88 percent of non-Hispanic white children in New Mexico households in 2021 had Internet and a computer or digital device usually or always available to children for educational purposes, compared to 84 percent of Hispanic children and 78 percent of children of two or more races or other race. The statewide average was 85 percent for all races and the national average was 88 percent.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, the number of young children (ages 3-4) not enrolled in school decreased slightly, bumping the state’s national ranking from 30th to 29th. However, the 2019 rate is only slightly better than it was in 2009. 61 percent of young children in Doña Ana County were not in school, compared to 55 percent statewide and 52 percent nationwide.
  • 79 percent of the 23,832 students enrolled in Las Cruces Public Schools were eligible for free or reduced-price meals in 2020-21, compared to 91 percent of the 12,876 students in Gadsden Independent Schools and 97 percent of the 1,225 in Hatch Valley Municipal Schools.

Students qualify for free meals if their families live at or below 130 percent of FPL ($28,236 for a family of three in the 2020-21 school year) and reduced-price meals if their families live at or below 185 percent of FPL ($40,182 for a family of three).

New Mexico has the second highest rate (73 percent) in the nation of public-school students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Through the 2021-22 school year, school meals will remain free to all students under an extended federal waiver in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • 89 percent of Native American fourth-grade students scored below proficient in reading in New Mexico in 2019, compared to 81 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders and 59 percent of non-Hispanic white fourth-graders. 83 percent of low-income fourth-graders of all races scored below proficient.

New Mexico ranks 50th in the nation in fourth-grade reading proficiency. 2019 marked the first year since 2009 that the rate of students reading below proficiency increased. In New Mexico, 76 percent of children are not proficient in reading by the fourth grade.

  • 92 percent of Native American eighth-grade students scored below proficient in math in 2019, compared to 84 percent of Hispanic eighth graders, 63 percent of non-Hispanic white eighth graders and 86 percent of low-income eighth graders of all races.

New Mexico ranks 49th in eighth-grade math proficiency. 79 percent of New Mexico eighth-graders are behind in math.

  • New Mexico students meeting or exceeding expectations in English language arts (fourth-graders) and math (eighth-graders) in 2018-19 included: for Gadsden schools, 28 percent of fourth-graders who met expectations and 5 percent who exceeded expectations, and 17 percent of eighth-graders who met expectations and 1 percent or less of eighth graders who exceeded expectations; for Hatch schools: 10-14 percent of fourth-graders who met expectations and 5 percent or less who exceeded expectations, and 10-14 percent of eighth-graders who met expectations and 5 percent or less of eighth-graders who exceeded expectations; and for Las Cruces schools, 27 percent of fourth-graders who met expectations and 4 percent who exceeded expectations, and 11 percent of eighth-graders who met expectations and 1 percent or less of eighth graders who exceeded expectations;
  • Habitual truancy, Gadsden schools: 6 percent in 2019-20, 26 percent in 2020-21; Hatch schools: 4 percent of 2019-20, 16 percent in 2020-21; Las Cruces schools: 10 percent in 2019-20, 17 percent in 2020-21. The statewide habitual truancy rate was 9 percent in 2019-20 and 27 percent in 2020-21.
  • Dropout rate, 2019-20: Gadsden schools: 2 percent; Hatch schools: 3 percent; Las Cruces schools: 1 percent. The statewide dropout rate was 3 percent in 2019-20.
  • One-quarter of New Mexican high-school students do not graduate on time, compared to the national average of 14 percent. For the sixth year in a row, New Mexico ranked 50th among all states on this indicator. The state has made improvements, however, going from 35 percent of students not graduating on time in 2009 to 25 percent not graduating on time in 2019. The biggest improvements in were among Native American and Hispanic students.
  • Gadsden schools had an 82 percent graduation rate for all students in 2019-20, compared to 80 percent for Hatch schools and 86 percent for Las Cruces schools. The statewide average was 77 percent.
  • 11 percent of Native American children had no health insurance in New Mexico in 2015-19, compared to 9 percent of Hispanic children, and 4 percent each for non-Hispanic white children, Black or African American children, Asian or Pacific Islander children and children or two or more races.

The statewide average for all New Mexico children was expected to be 6 percent in 2020 (29th in the nation), compared to 10 percent in 2010.

  • New Mexico had a substantiated child abuse victim rate per 1,000 children of 11.7 percent for Fiscal Year 2021, including 24 percent suffering from physical abuse, 3 percent from sexual abuse and 73 percent from physical neglect. 16.1 percent of children in Doña Ana County were victims of child abuse, including 27 percent who suffered from physical abuse, 3 percent from sexual abuse and 70 percent from physical neglect.

The rate of substantiated child abuse decreased dramatically from 21.5 children per 1,000 in FY 2020 to 11.7 children per 1,000 in FY21. The significant decrease is likely related in part to a drop in child abuse reports during the pandemic. Children were spending most of their time at home, and with less interaction with other adults, especially teachers, it was harder for youth to report abuse or for adults outside the home to notice the signs.

  • 32 percent of New Mexico teens were overweight or obese in 2018-19, which is the same as the year before and 1 percent above the national average. The percentage of overweight teens in Doña Ana County was 35 percent in 2017.
  • About 5 percent of New Mexico teens abused alcohol in 2018-19, compared to 2009-10. Nationally, the figure was 4 percent in 2018-19 and 7 percent in 2009-10.
  • 60.1 percent of Native American children were in single-parent families in New Mexico, 2015-19, compared to 51.5 percent of Black or African American children, 45.2 percent of Hispanic children, 42.9 percent of children of two or more races, 29.2 percent of non-Hispanic white children and 14.1 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander children. The figure was 37 percent for Doña Ana County children. It was also 37 percent statewide and 30 percent nationwide. The figures overall place New Mexico 48th in the nation.
  • Adults by educational attainment, 2915-19, Doña Ana County: 21 percent had no high school diploma, 23 percent were high school graduates or the equivalent, 22 percent had some college but no degree, 8 percent had an associate’s degree, 16 percent had a bachelor’s degree and 11 percent had a graduate or professional degree; statewide: 14 percent had no high school diploma, 27 percent were high school graduates or the equivalent, 23 percent had some college but no degree, 8 percent had an associate’s degree, 15 percent had a bachelor’s degree and 12 percent had a graduate or professional degree; nationwide: 12 percent had no high school diploma, 27 percent were high school graduates or the equivalent, 20 percent had some college but no degree, 9 percent had an associate’s degree, 20 percent had a bachelor’s degree and 12 percent had a graduate or professional degree.
  • The teen birthrate (the number of births to teens ages 15-19 for every 1,000 females in that age group) in New Mexico in 2019 was 32 percent among Native Americans, 28 percent among Hispanics, 21 among Black or African Americans and 15 percent among non-Hispanic whites. It was 23.8 percent in Doña Ana County, 24.4 percent statewide and 17.4 percent nationwide.

Originally called the Coalition for Children, New Mexico Voices for Children was founded in 1987 by three pediatricians, according to www.nmvoices.org. The mission of the nonpartisan, statewide advocacy organization based in Albuquerque “is to improve the status, well-being and racial/ethnic equity of New Mexico’s children, families and communities in the areas of health, education and economic security by promoting public policies through credible research and effective advocacy.”

For more information, call 505-244-9505.