ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – More than one-third of New Mexico’s children younger than age five are living in poverty – more than any other state in the nation – according to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report shows that child poverty declined in 28 states and rose in none, but nonetheless showed 36.2 percent of New Mexico’s children under the age of five living below the poverty line.
At a news conference Tuesday, Allen Sanchez, president of Albuquerque’s St. Joseph’s Children, said the numbers should sound alarms because New Mexico’s children are in trouble.
“We are 5 percent higher in poverty for this population of children from 5 years and younger than Mississippi,” he points out. “For years, we played leapfrog with Mississippi on the statistics. Today we’re going to have to pole vault to get back on track.”
State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, who attended the news conference, says the data should convince the Legislature to pull extra funds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to pay for programs specifically earmarked for early education.
The Land Grant Permanent Fund exceeds $16 billion and Maestas plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would use a portion to fund early childhood education programs that have been eliminated in many New Mexico schools. He says the new statistics prove something needs to change.
“Eight percent more than 47 other states in this country,” he stresses.
The number of children living in poverty in New Mexico in 2016 rose 1.5 percentage points from the previous year.Like this story? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get more of our best original news.