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Poverty in New Mexico
New Mexico is currently in the limelight as one of the poorest states in the United States. Located in the southern parts of the country, New Mexico is geographically defined by several mountains as well as the huge mountains characterized by least dense population (). However, the population composition of the state would explain the extent of poverty rates in the region. Historically, the region has been inhabited by Native Americans. Currently, the State ranks highest regarding poverty rates in the USA, with 16.4% of those below 25 years suffering from poverty (Harris 2015, p. 19). The nature of poverty in the New Mexico highlights distinct differences with other regions of the United States. For instance, in the USA, poverty has been regarded as an urban occurrence. In New Mexico, poverty is more of concentrated in the rural settings. Also, statistics indicate that over 50% of the poor population in the New Mexico is living outside the urban areas (NM Center on Law and Poverty, 2014).
One of the leading indicators of the poverty states in the region is that as the majority are living in the isolated rural area, they are far or segregated from the formal job opportunities and as such, limited reach of appropriate medical care in addition to the state offices where the population can get help like Medical aid and food stamps (Harris 2015). From this sense, poverty in the state is a construct of cultural and social factors coupled with geographic conditions. The population is locked out of employment opportunities, societal support services, health care and education.
Historical, Cultural and Social Reasons for Poverty in New Mexico
Historical grounds of poverty in New Mexico
Poverty in New Mexico has currently embedded into the historical elements or reasons apart from the social and cultural reasons informing the high rates of poverty in the region. For one, the State is inhabited by the natives of which are the inhabitants from several centuries, especially the Red Indians (Harris 2015). On the other hand, the state had formed part of the Royal Spanish rule, and as such, was part of Mexico (Harris 2015). Due to this context, the state currently has the highest population of the Hispanics compared to other states in the country. In essence, the state historically contains Spanish settlers as well as the migrants from Latin America and as such, explains the high poverty rates. Besides, the region historically has the highest percentage of the Indigenous people within America and comprises native tribes of Pueblo and Navajo (Harris, 2015). Therefore, the poverty rate in the state is deeply rooted in the historical nature of the region, especially having been a region dominated by the Hispanic immigrants and being attributed to the long Spanish rule.
Also, several claims of ownership for New Mexico explains why the State has not established socially and economically to reduce the cases of poverty. For instance, it has passed under the ownership of Spain, United States and Mexico (Harris, 2015). The situation has led to cultural barriers especially with the individuals holding diverse cultural beliefs on the actual ownership of the State as well as their way of life. In this sense, the high poverty level in New Mexico is significantly attributed to the uncertainty about the ownership of the state, especially the conflicts over the ownership among United States, Spain, and Mexico (Harris 2015). The historical conflicts led to underdevelopment of the state as the authorities focused their efforts on acquiring as well as protecting their new territories.
Due to the historical reasons, the poverty rates, according to the recently Census, has soared up in New Mexico. For instance, the 2012 Census data indicated that poverty rates had reduced among the Hispanics but for the New Mexico, the rates went up for the Hispanic, as an implication that more 15, 000 Hispanics have sunk into poverty (Wallin, 2014). The incidence of poverty implies that the state is currently experiencing less than $500 of growth in median income. Since the recession hit, the State has lost over 45,000 jobs and as such, an indication of worsening social conditions (Wallin, 2014).
Social factors to poverty in New Mexico
From the structuralism perspective, poverty in New Mexico stems from the class barriers, institutional and external legal factors that are barring people from uplifting themselves. However, the region is inhabited by the Hispanics who have historically faced exclusion from government attention. For instance, successive governments have not focused on uplifting the individuals from poverty levels, especially having limited attention towards developing social environment and conditions to foster development (Harris, 2015). For example, New Mexico lacks proper and well-paying jobs and employment opportunities. Few people are in the formal employment, with the Federal and State government lacking incentives for improving job opportunities for the New Mexico people.
The household median income, although recorded to have increased over the past few years, still shows income disparity and social inequality. For instance, as at 2016, the household median income had risen to $579; this denoted an increase of 1.2% from the previous years (Krasnow, 2016). However, the current rates are still lagging behind when compared with the national averages and as such, other bottom three states. Besides, there is limited medical coverage from the government. Latest findings indicate that between 2014 and 2015, around 74, 000 of the state residents gained health insurance coverage, around 14.7% of the population (Krasnow, 2016). The figures are way much below compared to the national average thereby confirming or indicating that there is profound inequality in the accessibility of health care that is responsible for the high or increased poverty rates in the region.
Another reason for the high poverty rates in New Mexico is that a larger percentage lack formal training and education (Harris, 2015). In this sense, there is a high reliance on low paying jobs and low skilled labor. However, such is a legal or institutional factor because the State is currently relying too much on the low skills as well as low paying jobs in the services and agricultural industries. Mostly, workers within the agricultural sector are the most affected with the government having fewer incentives for improving the working conditions of the individuals (Wallin, 2014). Furthermore, Jordan (2004) would argue that the failure of the institutional response, through legislation, to improve the working conditions of the New Mexicans is a challenge and a major factor in increasing the poverty rates in the State. More so, there is the concern a larger percentage are working below the minimum wage (Harris 2015). In part, the government is to blame for its failure to lay the foundation for the regulation framework in improving the working conditions in New Mexico, and as such, improve the minimum wage.
Another reason responsible for the high poverty rates in New Mexico is that the federal government has not done much to improve housing in the region. Particularly, high poverty rates in New Mexico is currently being attributed to the inadequate housing as well as incidences or prevalence of diseases, primarily resulting from deprivation (Wallin, 2014). From this state, inadequate housing is having an adverse impact on the lives of the New Mexicans, in particular with the poor performance in school (for children) thereby compromising their cognitive abilities and physical well-being due to the severe and unrelenting poverty (Wallin, 2014).
However, the cultural factors are equally responsible for the increased rates of poverty in New Mexico. The cultural factors or barriers are impeding the residents from making the best out of the federal and state expenditure meant to improve their Lives. For instance, the federal government is also responsible for channeling funds into state development projects. In the same sense, the latest census, in 2010 indicates that the State had the least federal funding, $28 billion equivalent to $13, 578 per capita (Harris, 2015). In this sense, the State ranks as one of the areas where the federal has channeled its funding. The failure to make use of this high level of federal government’s expenditure is much attributed to the cultural barriers, beliefs, and norms that are obstacles to social and economic development.
On the greater picture, one of the profound implications of low economic status can be attributed to the unhealthy risk behaviors (Jordan, 2004). In this sense, the Hispanics in New Mexico ascribe to their cultural or traditional beliefs that still lead them to unhealthy social behaviors. For instance, smoking cigarettes is a culture while a larger percentage also indulges in the overconsumption of alcohol (Morales, Lara, Kington, Valdez & Escarce, 2002). Also, the culturally lazy lifestyles lead them into physical inactivity. As a result, most of the Hispanics have compromised health situations or conditions, especially high rates and cases or obesity. From this, they are more inclined to be absent at work, and the situation further increases poverty within the population.
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Nonetheless, culturally, the residents of New Mexico have been affected by the mixed belief on their identity, and this is partly blamed on the historical ownership or rule in the State. More so, a primary concern is on the individuals who are divided about their identities, with some ascribing to the Hispanic and traditional values and some trying to get acculturated into the American lifestyle (Morales et al., 2002). The belief has led to conformity to the poverty situation with a larger percentage now depending on social and relief programs. For example, a good proportion of the families currently depend on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. For example, around 10% of the households in New Mexico are currently ascribed to the SNAP (Morales et al., 2002).
Cultural and social norms equally play a significant role or influence on poverty levels. Equally important is that the society ascribes to the patriarchal norms and values where gender equality lacks with limited opportunities present for women in the society (Jordan, 2004). In this sense, empowerment of women is such a major challenge and in return, leading to low economic and social empowerment.
Solutions to Poverty
To improve the situation in New Mexico, it will be imperative to put incentives towards promoting the economic security of the State. Economic security implies that sustainable economic solutions are developed and designed for the State. For example, the government should ensure measures for protecting the populations from the economic shocks; reduce the over-dependence on social and state programs like the Nutrition Assistance Programs (Morales et al., 2002). More so, solutions like unemployment insurance are reasonable solutions for amending the economic situation in the State. Incentives like minimum wages being improved to the current federal standards, as well as the introduction of Children Care Tax Credit can equally help with the situation at New Mexico. Banking system should be promoted through government-supported programs as a way of fostering habits of personal savings among the citizens.
Besides, the best solution to the State in addressing the poverty issue should be on the enhancement of the training and employment opportunities (Krasnow, 2016). For this case, it is imperative to ensure that the New Mexico residents have accessibility to quality education and as such, have proper training in diverse fields to ensure labor participation. Nonetheless, the government should reduce disparity in employment opportunities since this can be useful in helping the residents secure and develop their monetary assets as well as accumulating their savings (Harris, 2015). Empowerment through education and training is necessary and not expose the residents to rely much on government grants. Other incentives include labor force training, education accessibility that goes beyond class boundaries including the proper incentives for work support can equally reduce poverty rates. For example, a consideration like financial literacy training is necessarily vital in improving the skills in fiscal management and economic sustainability.
Nonetheless, incentives should be focused towards improvement the overall education achievement in the State. New Mexico is currently hit by high school dropout rates, and as such, a proper and long-lasting solution is needed for improving education attainment. Higher education attainment implies that the individuals have higher chances or possibilities of participating in the workforce, receiving higher income and getting proper health care (NM Center on Law and Poverty, 2014). For example, the government can intervene in the situation by making sure that college education is accessible and affordable to all, even for the low-income families.
Empowering and strengthening the communities is imperative, especially focusing efforts on improving health care as well as the stability of the families. Health care programs should be targeted towards the low-income and poverty stricken populations. In this sense, the government should subsidize its spending on health care and as such, introduce other awareness and wellness programs (Harris, 2015). For instance, the New Mexicans are more faced with obesity and other lifestyle diseases. In this case, it is imperative for the government to have a sustainable solution for promoting health, especially community outreaches to teach and train the residents on personal health care management (Wallin, 2014). Proper housing is another reasonable and practical approach to reducing poverty in New Mexico, more so focusing on improving housing conditions, harnessing the house prices.
Cultural empowerment is also necessary. For one, affirmative action should be increased in the society because patriarchal values and norms are locking out women from empowerment (Jordan, 2004). In this case, there is more to be done in the society in ensuring gender equality, and this should begin by the government initiating plans for improving accessibility to employment opportunities for women as well as training and education. Better policies are those that focus on family unity, especially addressing concerns about youths and teenage pregnancy, teen parenting and overall, alleviating poverty rates in the State.
- Harris, F. (2015). New Mexico 2050. New Mexico: UNM Press
- Harris, F. (2015). New Mexico Economy in 2050. New Mexico: UNM Press.
- Jordan, G. (2004). The causes of poverty cultural vs. structural: Can there be a synthesis. Perspectives in Public Affairs, 1, 18-34.
- Krasnow, B. (2016). N.M. poverty rate down, but is still among worst in U.S. Retrieved from http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/n-m-poverty-rate-down-but-is-still-among-worst/article_5da80fa0-d4cd-5fe7-b0c8-3e05f44a7daf.html
- Morales, L. S., Lara, M., Kington, R. S., Valdez, R. O., & Escarce, J. J. (2002). Socioeconomic, cultural, and behavioral factors affecting Hispanic health outcomes. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 13(4), 477–503. http://doi.org/10.1177/104920802237532
- NM Center on Law and Poverty, (2014). Alleviating Poverty Will Improve Education In New Mexico A report by the NM Center on Law and Poverty. Retrieved from http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Report-Education-FINAL-2013-01-06.pdf
- Wallin, A. (2014). Poverty update: Good news for the U.S., bad news for New Mexico. Retrieved from http://www.nmvoices.org/archives/4078.