New Mexico drops to 48th in child well-being
New Mexico dropped to a ranking of 48th in child well-being in
the 2008 national KIDS COUNT Data Report, released in June by
the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Last year, the state ranked 47th.
The annual report ranks the fifty states based on ten indicators
of child well-being, such as child poverty rates, teen birth and
dropout rates, and infant mortality rates, using the most recent
U.S. Census Bureau data available.
“It’s always disappointing to see New Mexico so close
to the bottom,” said Lisa Adams-Shafer, KIDS COUNT Program
Manager for New Mexico Voices for Children, which co-releases
the annual report. “Sadly, our child death rates have continued
The state’s death rate for children between one and fourteen
years of age increased by fifty-five percent between 2000 and
2005, ranking us 48th in this measure. In contrast, the national
average decreased nine percent over the same time period. According
to state Department of Health statistics, the majority of child
deaths are the result of automobile accidents. “This could
indicate the lack of use of child safety seats, or improper use,”
As in past years, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked lower than
New Mexico. Alabama, which ranked 48th last year, moved up to
47th. New Hampshire ranked first this year.
“There are some bright spots,” Adams-Shafer said.
We continue to do very well in terms of infant mortality rates,
and we continue to outpace the national average in improvement
in high school-dropout rates,” she added. New Mexico ranks
sixteenth in infant mortality rates, but 47th in the percentage
of teens who are not high school dropouts—despite a thirty-eight
percent improvement between 2000 and 2006. And despite our low
infant mortality rates, our percentage of low-weight babies rose
by six percent between 2000 and 2005.
Because of the lag in data, the effects of recent state initiatives
such as the pre-K program, raising the minimum wage, and the creation
of the Working Families Tax Credit will not show up for a few
more years. “These kinds of programs are a great start,
but it will take a lot more to move New Mexico out of the bottom
ten,” said Adams-Shafer. “Dramatically improving child
well-being will take a concerted effort that addresses multiple
issues, starting with child poverty. We need to expand and improve
early care and education programs and cover all kids with health
insurance,” she added. Optimal outcomes for child well-being
are outlined in Children’s Charter, which was launched by
NM Voices late last year.
Besides the ten indicators, the data book also looks at demographics,
such as the percentage of children without health insurance, and
focuses on one pressing issue. This year, the report focuses on
juvenile justice—an issue on which New Mexico does relatively
“Our rate of youth ages ten to fifteen in custody is less
than half the national average,” said Adams-Shafer. “The
KIDS COUNT essay links this, in part, to changes that began in
the Bernalillo County juvenile justice system.” The data
book essay cites changes in Medicaid rules that allowed the creation
of an outpatient clinic for mental health treatment as a model
of good public policy.
The 2008 KIDS COUNT data book is available online at http://www.kidscount.org/datacenter/databook.jsp
KIDS COUNT is a program of New Mexico Voices for Children and
is made possible by grants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization
advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of
New Mexico’s children, families, and communities.
For further information, contact New Mexico Voices for Children
at 2340 Alamo SE, Suite 120, Albuquerque, NM 87106-3523; by phone
at (505) 244-9505; or visit www.nmvoices.org.