Salaries Increase, but More Texans Still Living in Poverty Than before the Recession

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The median Texas household income increased by $2,555 last year according to new data from the Census Bureau. The data also show that fewer Texans are living in poverty, although overall incomes and poverty levels need improvement to ensure long-term economic growth for all Texans.

These changes are welcome news and mirror similar improvements for low-income and working families across the country. However, the Texas poverty rate of 15.9 percent is still much higher than the national average at 14.7 percent in 2015, and large economic gaps persist by race and ethnicity. The poverty rate for Hispanic (22.8 percent) and Black (21.4 percent) Texans far outpaces that of White (8.6 percent) or Asian (10.6 percent) Texans.

“Rising incomes for Texas families are great news after years of stagnant wage growth,” said CPPP Associate Director Frances Deviney, Ph.D. “However, we shouldn’t let that overshadow the fact that there is a greater share of Texans compared to the rest of the country facing consistent educational, transportation, child care and job barriers, leaving them struggling to provide for themselves and for their families. We must do a better job supporting public, private, local and state efforts to break down these barriers so that low-income families and individuals can access the Texas middle class.”

The economic challenges facing Texas children are particularly concerning. There are more than 7 million children living in Texas today, representing nearly 1 in 10 children living in the United States. However, nearly one in four Texas children (23 percent) are living in poverty. Poverty rates for Hispanic (33 percent) and Black children (32 percent) are nearly three times higher than they are for White (11 percent) and Asian children (12 percent). Not only are Black and Hispanic children more likely to live in poverty, but they are also more likely to grow up in high-poverty areas than White children, which significantly impacts the resources available to them and their families.

Children of color are not only the future of Texas, they are the Texas of today. Without them, Texas would face a demographic crisis—a shrinking and aging population with few working-age adults to support and replace older adults in the workforce. Closing the educational, health and financial gaps between Texas children of different races and ethnicities will require intentional, proactive community choices and public policies to ensure all Texans can reach their full potential.

Texas must ensure sufficient and equitable funding for public schools so that all children receive a quality education, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin. Texas should also create greater partnerships between schools, workforce development programs and businesses to promote pathways out of poverty and better support for families.

That is why it is such an encouraging sign that collaborative efforts are emerging in communities across the state to focus on increasing educational attainment and better aligning those programs with labor market demand for high paying jobs. Among the many examples are partnerships such as the Rio Grande Valley Focus Initiative, Early Matters, Upskill Houston,Dallas Commit, Pre-k 4 SA, Alamo Academies, and San Antonio Works.

Today’s release of the ACS by the U.S. Census follows Tuesday’s release of the Current Population Survey (CPS). To better understand the difference between the ACS and the CPS, view our side-by-side comparison. For more information or to schedule an interview with a CPPP expert please contact Oliver Bernstein at bernstein@cppp.org.

At the Center for Public Policy Priorities, we believe in a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We envision a Texas where everyone is healthy, well-educated, and financially secure. We want the best Texas - a proud state that sets the bar nationally by expanding opportunity for all. CPPP is an independent public policy organization that uses data and analysis to advocate for solutions that enable Texans of all backgrounds to reach their full potential. We dare Texas to be the best state for hard-working people and their families.

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