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Even as child poverty rates worsened nationwide in 2021, they improved slightly in New Mexico.

New Mexico’s child poverty rate fell from 24.9% in 2019 to 23.9% in 2021, according to the recently released U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Nationally, child poverty worsened slightly from 16.8% in 2019 to 16.9% in 2021, the survey said.

For 2021, the federal poverty level was a yearly income of $17,420 for a family of two; $21,960 for a family of three; and $26,500 for a family of four.

Amber Wallin (Courtesy of New Mexico Voices for Children)

Much of New Mexico’s improvement can be attributed to government programs, including the federal expansions of the Child Tax Credit, unemployment insurance and health coverage, as well as state expansions of tax credits for low income families, according to a news release from New Mexico Voices for Children, which has long advocated for many of these policies.

“While these federal programs will expire, New Mexico should see lasting improvement from policy changes made by the state Legislature during the last few years,” said Amber Wallin, the organization’s executive director.

“In addition to increases in the minimum wage and tax credits for New Mexicans earning low incomes, New Mexico also created a Child Tax Credit and expanded child care assistance to nearly all families with children,” Wallin said. “Due to timing, the benefits of those changes don’t show up in this data, but we should see them next year.”

In the release, Aiden Davis, the state policy director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said that state tax credits “are some of the most effective tools in the policy toolbox for lawmakers looking to help families struggling to put food on the table, pay their bills, and make ends meet.”

Such tax credits, he said, also serve to “chip away at racial and wealth inequality” and “blunt some of the regressivity of state and local tax systems.”