As national demographics change, white children are expected to be in the minority by 2018. New Mexico is well ahead of the national curve on that measure, with the second-largest share of racial/ethnic minority children in the 50 states (74 percent). The negative effects of centuries of discriminatory policies and practices are still felt by racial and ethnic minorities. For children, these impacts include barriers to opportunity that lead to health disparities, and achievement gaps in educational attainment and later economic well-being.
The new policy report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation April 1, unveils a new index which compares children’s progress on key milestones, and across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels.
Using a single composite score placed on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest), nationally Asian and Pacific Islander have the highest index score at 776, followed by white children at 704. Scores for Latino (404), American-Indian (387) and African-American (345) children are distressingly lower.
In New Mexico, Asian and Pacific Islander children also have the highest index score at 728, followed by white children at 634. Hispanic (363), Native American (293), and African-American (446) children have the lowest index scores, although New Mexico’s Black children score higher than the national average for Black children.
“Racial disparities occur due to barriers to the kinds of opportunities that kids need in order to thrive and reach their full potential, much in the same way that poverty holds children back,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a KIDS COUNT grantee. “It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. And until we face that fact with a comprehensive plan to mitigate these barriers, New Mexico is destined for a dim future.”
The Race for Results Index is based on 12 key indicators that determine if children are on the path to success in each stage of life. Index indicators are grouped into four categories—early childhood, education and early work, family supports, and neighborhood context.
“This first-time index shows that many in our next generation, especially kids of color, are off track in many issue areas and in nearly every region of the country,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. “Race for Results is a call to action that requires serious and sustained attention from the private, nonprofit, philanthropic, and government sectors to create equitable opportunities for children of color, who will play an increasingly large role in our nation’s well-being and prosperity.”
Just 26 percent of New Mexico’s children are non-Hispanic whites. Only one other state—Hawaii—has a smaller share of white children (13 percent) than New Mexico. California, with 27 percent white children, is a close third. Along with our high percentage of children who are racial/ethnic minorities, New Mexico also has one of the highest child poverty rates and is ranked lowest in the nation for child well-being.
“Race for Results is yet another wake-up call to our state, local, and civic leaders to take action now to improve the lives of our children and families,” said Dr. García. “No job is more important or urgent than ensuring that all our children are on the path to success. Our future depends upon it.”