Child well-being in New Mexico appears to be slowly improving with a marked decline in child poverty.
Data from New Mexico Voices for Children found child poverty in the state is lower than it was a decade ago - having dropped from 29-percent in 2012 to 24-percent in 2022 - keeping with a national downward trend.
Report author Emily Wildau, senior research and policy analyst for New Mexico Voices for Children, said the improvement is due to new state policies and the pandemic-related expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit. She said while poverty rates declined, disparities still exist.
"They exist along racial lines and by income, so it's really important for us to choose equity in all of our public policies - really making sure that we are considering how every policy passed can help us to close some of those gaps," she explained.
Wildau added following expiration of the federal tax credit, gaps in poverty by race and ethnicity widened again.
The annual well-being report tracks economic security, education, health and family and community. Voices for Children is encouraging state lawmakers to fully fund the Early Childhood Education and Care Department and increase the state Child Tax Credit for low-income families with young children.
The report includes several new indicators, including county-specific rates of illnesses among children due to extreme heat and as well as cases of asthma. Wildau said it's important that lawmakers understand how climate change is impacting the state's health-care system, given that New Mexico is a major oil- and gas-producing state.
"Which is really relevant to just consider how environmental contaminants can cause environmental health concerns for our kids," she continued.
Wildau said absenteeism remains high among New Mexico's school students, but the rate of teens who are not in school and not working -- often referred to as "disconnected youth" -- continues to decline.