News Column

N.M. Strictly Mediocre on Economic Security

May 23, 2013

New Mexico's economic security-related policies rank 22nd nationwide in keeping residents from falling through the cracks into poverty, according to a study released this week.

Economic security is defined as "having enough income to meet your daily basic needs and save for emergencies and retirement without public or private assistance," according to Shawn McMahon, acting president and CEO of Wider Opportunities for Women, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization that works on issues including empowerment, equity and economic security.

McMahon, who wrote the 25-page report, "The Economic Security Scorecard: Policy and Security in the States," said states were graded on whether they offered decent schools and competitive minimum hourly wages, as well as access to unemployment, Medicaid and food stamps, in addition to job training and home-ownership opportunities.

States that did a better job of getting these security-building services and policies to their residents were ranked and graded more highly that states that did not.

New Mexico got the grade of C overall. The top three states were Washington, earning a B-, then Vermont, followed by Oregon, both getting C+. At the bottom of the economic security barrel were Mississippi, Alabama and Utah, all getting D+. No state got an A or an F.

Living within or outside of economic security is different from living in or out of poverty, which is defined as not earning enough to meet one's basic needs, or a family of four living on $22,500 a year. Economic security, which would allow a person to cover basic needs like housing, utilities, food, transportation, childcare, clothes, health care, and taxes, would require twice or three times the amount of money that living in poverty requires annually, depending on one's location, McMahon said.

"Our measures are aspirational measures that provide a goal toward which people can work to make sure they are never in danger of falling into poverty if they encounter personal emergencies or if the economy declines," he said.

The study began at the start of 2012 and ended in March of this year.

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(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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Source: Copyright Albuquerque Journal (NM) 2013