New Mexico had the country’s second-highest poverty rate in 2013, according to a report released today by the United States Census Bureau. The bad numbers for our state come as poverty rates are falling in the country as a whole.
Poverty in New Mexico increased more than a full percentage point between 2012 and 2013, with nearly 22 percent of residents here earning less than the federal poverty wage during that period.
That keeps us at the very bottom of the country, with only Mississippi having a higher poverty level. New Mexico was one of only three states where the poverty is rate is going up.
The New Mexico Human Services Department did not respond to calls asking whether that has led to a rise in enrollment for food stamps or other social services.
But Veronica Garcia, executive director of the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, says the figures don’t bode well for the state’s youth.
“When we think of children living in poverty we think of hunger, we think of instability, we think of basic needs not being met,” Garcia said. “Adverse childhood experiences impact brain development and cognitive development, which has long lasting effects on children.”
Garcia’s organization is calling for funding for early education to end New Mexico’s poverty problems.
The news from the Census report was much better for most of the rest of the country. Nationwide America’s poverty rate fell in 2013 for the first time since 2006. The Census Bureau reports nationwide, there were over 45 million people living at or below the poverty line.