I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Report says poverty measure needs to be changed — and that child poverty in N.M. remains sky high
A new report (pdf) by New Mexico Voices for Children says that the current poverty measure does not accurately convey the real number of New Mexico families having trouble meeting basic needs.
“While the official poverty measure, commonly referred to as the federal poverty level or FPL, is supposed to indicate how much it costs a family to live at a bare minimum, by many accounts the actual costs are roughly twice the FPL,” the report states.
Officially, for a family of three, those households making under $17,600 are under the FPL. For a family of four, the dividing line is $21,200.
New Mexico Voices for Children says a more accurate representation of the money needed by a family are “basic family budgets.” These take into account housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes but do not take into consideration other costs like savings, restaurant meals, emergency funds, or renter’s insurance. In other words, no saving for the future, eating out or protecting your valuables — the basic family budget number is a bare minimum. These basic family budgets are available for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and rural New Mexico.
Using these numbers, a basic family budget is in some cases twice as much as the FPL. Much of this discrepancy is because costs have increased and changed in the decades since the FPL was calculated. For example, food was one-third of a family’s budget in the 1960s. Now, it is just one-seventh. Other expenses have increased.
“A much smaller percentage of families needed full-time child care in the 1950s,” the report says. “Today, child care is a major expense for working families. The measure also does not include categories for costs like housing, transportation, or health care – all of which families need to survive.”
New Mexico Voices for Children says this shows the need for a change in the poverty measure.
Even with these numbers, 25.2 percent of all children up to the age of 17 in New Mexico live under the poverty level. Luna County has 53.5 percent of children up to the age of 17 living under the poverty level, the highest in the state. The lowest rate is in, not surprisingly, Los Alamos County where just 2.7 percent of children under the age of 17 live under the poverty level.
The annual report is funded by the The Annie E. Casey Foundation.