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Editorial: First in teen births adds up to lots of low rankings

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There’s clear correlation between New Mexico ranking at the bottom of some lists and first in others.

Because when you are No. 1 in teen births, it makes sense that you are dead last in education performance? (2014 Quality Counts Report)

Or 49th in overall children’s well being? (2014 National Kids Count Data Book)

Or first in child hunger? (2014 Feeding America)

Some New Mexico advocates argue there is no Horatio Alger path here. Michaela Cadena, policy director at Young Women United, says that “regardless of when a person has a child, whether it’s in the teenage years or in their 20s or 30s, it does not change their economic trajectory. If they are born into poverty, they will likely remain in poverty.”

Though not as fatalistic, it’s clear that if they have a child in poverty it’s much harder for them to get out of it. Much harder to get an education, much harder to get a good-paying job, much harder to break the cycle Cadena is likely referring to. Having a baby while you’re still essentially a kid may not change your economic trajectory, as Cadena says, but it certainly locks it in tighter.

So while there has been some positive development in New Mexico, with the state recording a decline in the teen birth rate – from 62 births per 1,000 teens in 2005 to 47.5 births per 1,000 last year, ranking No. 1 on this list still has too many extremely negative repercussions across the economic spectrum.

And it needs to be part of any discussion on improving those other rankings, for the sake of the state’s current children and their yet to be born ones.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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