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"Forget the Rest" blog

New Mexico’s Economic & Social Health:
Existing Policies Are Failing

Damon Hill, Fatima Portugal, and Greg Mello, October 20, 2005 

Overall: At the Bottom, More or Less

  • New Mexico ranked 50th (last) overall for social health policies two years in a row (2002-2003; Fordham Institute for Innovation in Social Policy).[1]

Poverty, Income Disparity, and Average Income: Almost the Worst

  • New Mexico’s Poverty Rate and State Ranking 1969-2004 (U.S. Census Bureau)







Poverty Rate






State Ranking in terms of Poverty Rate  (51 = lowest)






  • Childhood Poverty Rate and State Ranking 1989-2004 (U.S. Census Bureau)







Poverty Rate






State Ranking in terms of Poverty Rate  (51 = lowest)






  • The wealth gap between the poorest fifth and the richest fifth has grown from an 8.5 ratio (late 1970s) to a 9.8 ratio (late 1990s), to the third-highest income disparity among the states.[7]
  • New Mexico’s per capita personal income rank relative to the states and the District of Columbia has gone from 40th in 1929 up to a peak of 34th in 1959 and then down to 48th in 2004.[8]  See graph on following page.  

Education: “F” – and Getting Worse

  • New Mexico’s rural schools ranked second in the country as “most urgently in need of help” according to The Rural School and Community Trust (2005).[9]  New Mexico was 16th in terms of urgency in 2003 – a drop of 14 places in national rank in just two years.
  • New Mexico has the highest rate of rural families with school-age children living below the federal poverty line of any state (23.3%; The Rural School and Community Trust).[10]   
  • New Mexico’s high school graduation rate (65%) ranks near the bottom in the nation (39th) according to a Center for American Progress study.[11]
  • New Mexico’s fourth grade students ranked 49th in reading and 49th in math on the nation’s report card (NAEP). Eight graders ranked 50th in reading and 49th in math.[12]
  • New Mexico was the “dumbest” state for three years in a row (2002-2004) in a Morgan Quitno Press national ranking.[13]
  • New Mexico’s national rank in five key indicators of educational performance fell significantly from 1992 to 2002 (see table on separate page below).

Child Welfare: Nearly the worst  

  • New Mexico ranks last in the country for the percentage of children living with a parent who lacks a secure year-round job (34%; Annie E. Casey Foundation “Kids Count” report).[14]
  • New Mexico ranks second to last for the percentage of children living in families headed by a single parent (36%; Annie E. Casey Foundation “Kids Count” report).[15]
  • New Mexico ranks 46th in overall child well-being, according to the 2005 “Kids Count” report (released July, 2005).[16]

Morbidity, Crime, and Despair: Terrible

  • New Mexico has fallen from 22nd (1993) to the 48th (2005) healthiest state over the last 12 years in a Morgan Quitno Press annual ranking of the fifty states.[17]
  • New Mexico’s violent crime rate has risen, driving its national rank down from 40th (2003) to 47th (2005) according to the United Health Foundation.[18]
  • New Mexico ties with Nevada for the highest rate of violent deaths, including homicide and suicide, per capita (New Mexico Health Policy Commission).[19]
  • New Mexico has had the highest rate of total drug overdose deaths in the nation since the 1990's; that rate has steadily increased since 1994 (New Mexico Health Policy Commission).[20]
  • New Mexico’s accidental death rate was 65.6% higher than the U.S. rate (2002) and the suicide rate was 75% higher than the U.S. rate (2002) according a New Mexico Health Policy Commission report.[21]


[1]Garcia, Patricia. “State’s social health ailing, study finds,” The Albuquerque Tribune, 17 November 2003, sec. A-8.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau.  “Poverty in the United State - Changes Between the Censuses,” Bureau of the Census Statistical Brief, 1993, http://www.census.gov/apsd/www/statbrief/sb93_15.pdf (10 October 2005).

[3] U.S. Census Bureau. “State Profile: New Mexico,” Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1999, http://www.census.gov/statab/www/states/nm.txt  (13 October 2005)

[4] U.S. Census Bureau.  “Table: Percent of People Below Poverty Level,” American Community Survey 2004 Rankings Tables, http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/GRTSelectServlet?ds_name=ACS_2004_EST_G00_&_lang=en&_ts=143461026636 (13 October 2005).

[5] Data for 1989-1998 obtained from U.S. Census Bureau. “Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates,” 6 December 2004 http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/saipe/county.html (17 October 2005).

[6] U.S. Census Bureau. “Rankings Tables 2001-2004,” American Community Survey, 2005.  http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Products/Ranking/index.htm (13 October 2005).

[7] Bernstein, Jared et al. “Pulling Apart: A State-by-State Analysis of Income Trends,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities/ Economic and Policy Institute, 2000.

[8] Robert L. Brown, G. Andrew Bernat, Jr., and Adrienne T. Pilot, Comprehensive Revision of State Personal Income, Preliminary Estimates for 2003, Revised Estimates for 1969–2002: Table D. Per Capita Personal Income, Personal Income, and Population for States and Regions, 2002–2003, May 2004. http://www.bea.gov/bea/ARTICLES/2004/05May/0504RevSPI.pdf (7 October 2005).

[9] Johnson, Jerry and Marty Strange. “New Mexico State Report,” Why Rural Matters: The Facts About Rural Education in the 50 States,  The Rural School and Community Trust,  2005 and 2003,  http://www.ruraledu.org/whyruralmatters/ (17 October 2005).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Renewing our Schools, Securing our Future: A National Taskforce on Public Education. August 2005. Education: The State We’re In, An Education Report Card for the State of New Mexico. Washington, D.C.: Center for American Progress and Institute for American’s Future.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Morgan Quitno Press, Results of the 2004 Smartest State Award, 28 September 2004, http://www.statestats.com/edpri04.htm (6 October 2005). Rankings based on an analysis of 21 factors including but not limited to Public High School Graduation Rate, Percent of Public School Fourth/Eight Graders Proficient or Better in Writing/Math, Average Class Size in Public Elementary/Secondary Schools). 

[14] Hoffman, Leslie. “New Mexico has highest rate of children living in poverty,” Santa Fe Free New Mexican, 3 June 2004, posted on website http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/321.html  (17 October 2005).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Gutierrez Krueger, Joline.  “State ranked 46th for child welfare,” Albuquerque Tribune, 27 July 2005.  www.abqtrib.com (18 October 2005).

[17] Morgan Quitno Press, Results of the 2005 Healthiest State Award, 7 March 2005, http://www.statestats.com/hc93-05.htm, (6 October 2005).

[18] United Health Foundation.  “America's Health: State Health Rankings - 2004 Edition: Table 2,” 2004,  http://www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/shr2004/components/violentcrime.html (7October 2005).

[19] New Mexico Health Policy Commission. January 2005. Quick Facts. http://hpc.state.nm.us/reports/QuickFacts05_Feb1_final.pdf. p. 12.

[20] Ibid., p. 10.

[21] Ibid., p. 5.

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