What ‘Kids Count’ Gets Right — and Wrong


The annual hand-wringing over the release of “Kids Count” has begun.

Every year, the Annie E. Casey Foundation issues what it calls “the premier source for data on child and family well-being in the United States.” And, as usual, New Mexico ranked dismally — 49th, just ahead of Mississippi.

Breaking it down by category, the Land of Enchantment ranked 44th in health, 48th in economic well-being, 49th in family and community, and 50th in education.

Give the report credit for examining the role illegitimacy and family fragmentation play in harming children: “In 2014, 36 percent of single-parent families had incomes below the poverty line, compared with 8 percent of married couples with children. Compared with children in married-couple families, children raised in female-headed households are more likely to drop out of school, to have or cause a teen pregnancy and to experience a divorce in adulthood.”

But it’s important to note that there’s a liberal agenda behind the data presented. In the words of the foundation’s president and CEO, “The American people are expecting the next president and Congress to address their urgent concerns about economic inequality, stagnant wages, the dearth of good jobs for workers without a four-year college degree and the obstacles low-income students face in obtaining postsecondary education and training. On their behalf, we call on our country’s current and potential leaders across the political spectrum to seize this unique moment by taking bold and decisive action to reduce economic insecurity and restore the American promise of opportunity.” Rest assured, “bold and decisive action” does not include tax cuts, deregulation, school choice, and work requirements for welfare programs.

Kids Count is affiliated with state-based, media-savvy, far-left organizations that use the report to push legislators and governors for Big Government-based “solutions” to unacceptable child well-being. Preschool and Medicaid expansion are good examples. Other shaky claims are made as well. Albuquerque Business First allowed New Mexico Voices for Children Executive Director Veronica Garcia to assert that the state’s low ranking “makes it more difficult to attract businesses to New Mexico. What attracts them is an educated workforce and good child well-being. [This ranking] is counterproductive for business.”

Nonsense. Some of the most economically vibrant states (e.g., Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee) rank quite poorly on Kids Count. And several top performers (e.g., Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey) are deep-blue states with shrinking populations and fleeing business owners. Workforce skills are important, of course, but many other factors matter as well, including low taxes, reasonable regulations, and a right-to-work law.

No one questions the reality of New Mexico’s jaw-dropping social pathologies. Severe substance abuse, rampant out-of-wedlock births, abysmal educational attainment, and the like make life very tough for kids in the Land of Enchantment. That needs to change. But it isn’t likely to, as long as professional advocates for “children” here fail to grasp that government feeds the state’s self-destructiveness.