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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2009 KIDS COUNT Shows Some Improvements in NM Child Well-Being

From New Mexico Voices for Children: New Mexico has moved up from last year's ranking of 48th in the nation for child well-being to 43rd. That's according to the 2009 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the newest edition of the annual state-by-state study on the health and welfare of America's youth. The data book, which is published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, was released today. It shows that New Mexico has also improved its ranking on six of the ten key indicators of child well-being since 2000.

Still, the report presents a mixed picture for our state's kids. New Mexico ranks among the bottom ten states on four of the ten key indicators used in the report: teen birth rate (ranking 49th among the states), children without secure parental employment (ranking 44th), child poverty rate (ranking 47th), and children living in single-parent families (ranking 48th).

Some of the most striking improvements are in New Mexico's infant mortality and teen dropout rates. "Our low infant mortality rate has long been the highlight in the KIDS COUNT data book," said Christine Hollis, KIDS COUNT program manager at New Mexico Voices for Children. New Mexico's infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, ranking us 14th in that indicator.

In addition, New Mexico's teen dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000, ranking New Mexico 36th nationally. KIDS COUNT defines this indicator as the percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and are not high school graduates. This definition may not track exactly with how New Mexico’s Public Education Department determines dropout rates, however.

"The expansion of our investment in Medicaid and education, especially Pre-K and K-12, during the Richardson/Denish administration is starting to pay off," Eric Griego, Executive Director of NM Voices said. "However, more investment is still needed to move these numbers further, particularly given the current economic downturn."

The 2009 KIDS COUNT report contains the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available – most of it from 2006-07 – which do not reflect the effects of the current recession.

NM Voices, the Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT state affiliate, has prepared a supplement to the Data Book, available at www.nmvoices.org/kidscount.htm showing more clearly New Mexico's ranking on each of the ten measures, what the state would need to do to gain a national ranking of #1, and policy efforts that could help move New Mexico in this direction. A link to the national data book can also be found there.

Nationally, the data book shows large disparities for children based on race or ethnicity, which may impact New Mexico's ranking.

"Because New Mexico is a minority-majority state, we are concerned that the report shows that, on several measures, Hispanic child well-being is worse than child well-being in the US as a whole," said Hollis. Hispanic teens, for example, have the highest teen birth rate nationally (83 births per 1000 females ages 15-19, compared to the overall teen birth rate of 42 per 1000), and more than one-third of the country's Hispanic children live in single-parent families.

"New Mexico also has the second highest percentage of Native-Americans, and the indicators for Native-American children are dismal," Hollis added. Nationally, Native Americans have the highest teen death rate (95 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19, as opposed to the national average of 64/100,000), and more than half (52 percent) of Native-American children live in families where no parent has full-time, secure employment, versus 33 percent of US children overall.

This year's report marks two decades of KIDS COUNT data collection and includes an essay that takes stock of how much progress the country as a whole has made in collecting data that can help move public policies that improve children's well-being.

In the 20 years of data books, New Mexico has always ranked in the bottom ten among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We hit our highest overall ranking of 40th in 1995. Our lowest ranking of 48th dogged us for five years in 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

This year's Data Book is complemented by the launch of an expanded web-based KIDS COUNT Data Center containing multiple measures of child well-being that include information on national, state, county and metropolitan levels. Information specific to New Mexico is found at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/nm.

July 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM in Children and Families, Education, Healthcare, Minority Issues, Poverty, Public Policy, Youth | Permalink

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