Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Poorest State

What difference does it make whether we are the poorest state or the second-poorest state in the nation?  So we passed Louisiana to become the top state in terms of poverty numbers in 2011 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). By moving to the top, we can use a hyperbole in the headline.  New Mexico is now the Poorest State in the United States   

Regardless of ranking,  both Louisiana and New Mexico should remain deeply concerned about the high rate of poverty, which almost certainly means a continuing high rate of food insecurity

Still, those pesky ranking numbers do say a lot about a state's commitment ot addressing the problem.  Granted, there are other factors, such as a depressed national economy, are contributing heavily to our current situation.

Before 2008, New Mexico's poverty ranking hovered around 44th or 45th.

The 2011 Numbers 
The Census Bureau  reported that 451,000 people were estimated to be living in poverty in New Mexico in 2011.  That is 22.2 percent of the population.

In contrast, 46.2 million people in the entire United States were deemed to live in poverty, or about 15 percent of the total population.

Rather than compare our statistics with the rest of the country, it's more significant to compare the data with previous years.  Here's what the Albuquerque Journal said in 2011, when the poverty rate was reported at 18.6 percent.: "New Mexico’s poverty rate was down from 19.3 percent in 2009 but up significantly from pre-recession levels of 14.0 percent in 2007. New Mexico’s poverty rate was 17.5 percent in 2000, the year of the last national census."   If you have a subscription the Jounal, you can see the full article here.

 "The increase in poverty and the decrease in household income can be attributed to New Mexico's slow recovery from the national recession," said Gerry Bradley, an economist and research director for New Mexico Voices for Children.

"Everything that happens in the area of poverty it's going to ultimately be traced back to the labor market. If we're losing jobs, we're not going to be improving in our poverty standings," Bradley noted.

According ot the Census Bureau, the national poverty rate in 2011 for children under age 18 was 21.9 percent.  The poverty rate for people aged 18 to 64 was 13.7 percent, while the rate for people aged 65 and older was 8.7 percent.  Here is a graphic

If you want more inforrmation, you can read the full report and get a headache from an overload of numbers, graphics and administrative speak.  Or you can get a very simplistic view from reading coverage from CBS News and KOAT-TV.  An alternative is to view highlights or  tables and figures from the Census Bureau report.  Or you can read the press release from New Mexico Voices for Children, which believes that the report offers a mixed bag for the state.

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