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As a community, we have amazing groups of people rallying around our children to help them prepare for their futures. Educators, afterschool program facilitators, non-profit organizations, businesses providing internships to high-school students and numerous other big-hearted community members invest in this next generation to help them chart the course to a great life.
From The Bridge of Southern New Mexico’s perspective, we’ve worked across our partnerships to focus on academic outcomes (high school and college completion, dual credit courses, Career and Technical Education) that will render economic impact in the lives of these students (awareness, exploration and preparation for higher wage, higher-skilled jobs).
These are important building blocks, but there are so many other things we should be teaching our young people now to set them up for a life of financial independence. Financial literacy is a critical component. Avoidance of student loan debt is another. The pros and cons of public assistance programs, which can be a help in time of need, but place asset and income limits on recipients that will later handicap their ability to take job promotions and other opportunities to increase their earnings.
The release of 2020 Census data revealed some other important lessons we should be passing on to our children to help them avoid a life in poverty. We know that one in four members of our community lives in poverty, and one in three of our children until 18 do, as well.
According to an analysis of the data by the American Enterprise Institute, household demographics are “very highly correlated with household income.” The researchers broke down the income of U.S. households into five groups (quintiles):
The study found, “high-income households are far more likely on average than individuals in low-income households to be well-educated, married, working full time, and in their prime earning years. In contrast, individuals in lower-income U.S. households are far more likely than American in higher-income households to be less-educated, working part time, either very young (under 35) or very old (over 65), and living in single-parent or single member households.”
Let me share some specifics. Let’s start with education. Those with bachelor degrees made up the highest percentage of those in the top three quintiles. Those with a high-school diploma or less made up the majority of those in the bottom two quintiles.
As for employment, the study reported on the number of earners per household. Married couples with more than one earner comprised the majority of those earning higher wages. Single parent families or singles comprised the highest percentage of the lowest three categories of earners, including a whopping 83.3 percent of those in the lowest earning bracket.
The study also looked at whether individuals were working part time, full time or not at all. In four of the top five quintiles, those working full time made up the highest percentage of earners, but the numbers grew larger the higher the income bracket. The highest earners comprised 78.4 percent, the second highest 72.1 percent, the middle bracket 61.6 percent and the second lowest 47 percent.
Conversely, those who did not work or worked part time made up the highest percentage of those in the lowest and second lowest quintile.
So, as we come alongside our young people, we can also help them understand the links between life choices and their impacts on future earnings. Information is power, and armed with information, our young people can set a course to a future that brings out the best in them and the best outcomes for their lives.
Tracey Bryan is president/CEO of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico. She can be reached at TraceyBryan@thebridgeofsnm.org