New Census data remind us that too many Texans are struggling

AUSTIN, TEXAS – The Texas poverty rate continued its slow improvement to 17.2 percent in 2014 according to Census data released today, but more than 4.5 million Texans still live in poverty. Just as alarming is the Texas poverty rate for children of 24.6 percent, which remained unchanged from last year, according to today's American Community Survey (ACS) Census release. Today's Census data release follows yesterday's release of health care data.

"Although the state is growing, too many Texans struggle every day to make ends meet," said CPPP Research Associate Jennifer Lee. "High levels of child poverty continue to undermine our state economy and affect the future prosperity of our state."

Highlights from today's American Community Survey data release include:

Children are the most likely to live in poverty in Texas. Although Texas’ overall poverty rate declined slightly, the state’s child poverty rate remained unchanged.The rapid economic growth in Texas cities and reflected in population growth, new construction, and increasing home values, has outpaced growth in Texans’ paychecks. Median household income rose only slightly to $53,035.Income inequality is persistent in Texas. If Texas were made up of five people collectively earning $100, the highest-earning person would earn more than $51 while the lowest-earner would make $3.14 and the Texan in the middle earns $14.Education levels and poverty are closely connected, underscoring the importance of educating the next generation of Texans for the state’s future prosperity. 28.5 percent of Texans without a high school diploma lived in poverty, compared to 10 percent of those with some college education, and only 4.5 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree. However, poverty rates for those with higher education are worse in Texas today than they have been in the past.

For the first time, the Census Bureau released a report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) at the same time as official poverty rates. The SPM tells us about the effectiveness of safety net programs and other anti-poverty policies.

Nationally, programs like Social Security, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, reduced child poverty rates. These programs helped account for a difference of 4.8 percentage points in national child poverty rates using the official and supplemental poverty measures. To learn more about the two different poverty measures, view our comparison fact sheet.

For more details on the health care and other Current Population Survey (CPS) Census data released earlier this week, click here. To better understand the difference between the two American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS), view our side-by-side comparison.

Background:

Many families not officially captured in the poverty measure are still struggling. Economic security, defined as the ability to afford the basics, weather the uncertainties of life, and plan for the future, is out of reach for many Texans. Estimates of what it takes to be economically secure are usually at least twice the poverty line, and 38 percent of Texans live under that threshold.