New Census Data Show Texas Leaving More Children In Poverty Than Any Other State, Except California

For Immediate Release
Friday, September 18, 2015

For More Information Contact:

Anat Kelman Shaw
(713) 664-4080

HOUSTON, TX — According to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, more than 1.7 million (24.6 percent) Texas children under age 18 lived in poverty in 2014, a number higher than in any other state except California. Despite a slight decline in the number of Texas children living in poverty (11,578 fewer poor children in 2014 than in 2013), the percent change was not significant, and child poverty in Texas remains at shamefully high levels. Nearly one in four Texas children are poor, compared with nearly one in five nationally. Our state’s rate of Asian children under age 18 living in poverty increased by 13 percent, from 10.5 in 2013 to 11.9 in 2014. The percentage change in child poverty between 2013 and 2014 for Asian children under age six was even higher, at 31.4 percent. The data continue to show that more needs to be done for the economic recovery to be fully realized by lower income families and their dependents. This week, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture also reported that 1 in 6 Texas families struggled to avoid hunger in 2014.

“Far too many of our state’s future workers are experiencing the negative effects and toxic stress that poverty has on child development, including precarious access to basic needs and opportunities to learn, grow and explore,” said Children’s Defense Fund-Texas Executive Director Patrick Bresette. “Policy changes like increasing the minimum wage, investing in early education, child care and children’s health coverage are proven strategies to alleviate the effects of poverty and improve economic and health outcomes for Texas children. To continue to have a growing economy and productive workforce, Texas must invest in these and other programs that improve child outcomes.”

The state’s youngest children have higher rates of poverty than children overall, with 26.4 percent under age 6 living in poverty, compared with 24.6 percent under age 18. Additionally, for Texas children living in extreme poverty*, 12 percent of children under 6 were living in extreme poverty, compared with 10.3 percent for children under age 18.  Since the early years of a child’s life is when the greatest period of rapid brain development occurs, the toxic stress of poverty in these years has a greater impact on children’s development and future outcomes.

“Two-generation solutions that improve parents’ earning potential and increase children’s access to opportunity are critical,” Bresette said. “One such approach is to expand Medicaid coverage to poor and near poor adults because it’s been proven that when parents are covered, children are likelier to get covered, stay covered and access the care they need to grow and thrive. It also causes parents to miss less work due to illness, increases their earning potential, and ensures children are in a more stable environment and attend school ready to learn.”

Despite having the second highest overall number of children in poverty in the country, the number of Hispanic, Black and White children in Texas living in poverty declined slightly, while, nationally, the Black child poverty rate increased by 10 percent between 2013 and 2014. In Texas, 33.4 percent of Hispanic children, 32.5 percent of Black children, 23.2 percent of American Indian children, 11.9 percent of Asian children, and 20.8 percent of children of two or more races, live in poverty, compared to 10.6 percent of White children. The total number of White children in Texas is declining while the number of children of color continues to grow – more than 60 percent of Texas children are now children of color.

“While it’s morally imperative to ensure all children, particularly children of color, have a level playing field and access to opportunities to ensure they thrive, our changing demographics demonstrate an economic imperative too,” Bresette said. “The success of our future economy depends on the success of all Texas children – an increasingly diverse population.”

Ending Child Poverty Now, a national Children’s Defense Fund report released earlier this year, outlined how nine policy changes could reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Some strategies outlined in the report include increasing the minimum wage and creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit. Additional state and federal investments are needed in pro-work tax credits, SNAP benefits, housing subsidies, and child care assistance to reduce poverty and guarantee a stronger future workforce and economy. Data from the Supplemental Poverty Measure also released Thursday by the Census Bureau show the continuing effectiveness of these and other key programs in lifting children and their families above the poverty line.

The poverty measure is the most widely known measure of family economic stability, but the cost of basic needs for a family of four far exceeds the poverty threshold. The Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin estimates that the cost of basic needs, including food, housing, health care, transportation, taxes and other necessities for a two parent two-child family would be about $48,000 in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston. That’s roughly twice the poverty income levels.*

Nationally, nearly one in five children – 15.5 million – were in poverty in 2014, and children remain the poorest age group in the country. Although there was a drop in the number of children in poverty in the United States from 2014 to 2013, as in Texas, it was not statistically significant.

* Poverty is defined as an annual income below $24,418 for an average family of four, or $2,035 a month, $470 a week, or $67 a day. Extreme poverty is defined as less than half of the annual poverty level, or less than $12,209 for a family of four.