Texas’ poverty rate improved to 17.2 percent in 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released Sept. 17.
Embedded in that statistic is this: more than 4.5 million Texans — 1.7 million of whom are children — still live in poverty. In 2014, the poverty line for a family of three was about $19,000 per year.
Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and advocacy organization, said the poverty rate for Texas children of 24.6 percent remained unchanged from the previous year.
“Although the state is growing, too many Texans struggle every day to make ends meet,” Jennifer Lee of the Center for Public Policy Priorities said. “High levels of child poverty continue to undermine our state economy and affect the future prosperity of our state,” she added.
Other points made by the Center, based on the Census Bureau data: – 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 highestearning person would earn more than $51 while the lowestearner 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. Some 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.
No one need go hungry
Texas Department of Agriculture is encouraging Texans in need to apply for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded Child and Adult Care Food Program.
About 13,000 adult and child care centers and home-based day cares in Texas are serving free or reduced-price meals through the program.
Helpful information can be found at www.squaremeals.org.
Unemployment rate drops
Texas Workforce Commission on Sept. 18 announced Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in August, the lowest rate of unemployment for Texas since January of 2001. The national unemployment rate was at 5.1 percent in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Leisure and Hospitality led all major industries in Texas with an expansion of 5,900 jobs in August. The Professional and Business Services industry added 4,000 positions over the month, and Construction gained 3,200 jobs in August. Other Services, which includes religious and civic organizations, personal services and repair businesses, added 600 jobs in August.
Texas Workforce Commission Chair Andres Alcantar said the state’s low unemployment rate “demonstrates the resilience and strength of the Texas economy.”
Texas earns top rating
A 2015 Global Location Trends Facts & Figures report by IBM ranks Texas the No. 1 state in the U.S. for foreign and domestic investment, based on number of jobs.
Released last week, the report examines what drives companies to relocate or locate new operations and facilities around the world.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 15 commented on the report, saying: “Texas is a state best characterized by its competitive advantage in diversity of talent, market and economic resources and it’s no surprise we’ve again been named a top state for investment.”
Child seats emphasized
Texas Department of Transportation last week reported that in 2014, crashes on Texas roads killed 81 children younger than 8 years of age. In 2013 the death toll for children in the same age bracket was 67.
Texas law requires all children under 8 years old, unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches, to be in a child safety seat whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle. Failure to properly restrain a child can result in a ticket up to $250.
TxDOT conducted free child safety seat checks at the agency’s 25 statewide district offices as part of national Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 13-19.
Houston is added to list
U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Sept. 15 announced the adding of Houston and Chicago to the federal agency’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office’s Securing the Cities program. The program reportedly is designed to help detect radiological and nuclear threats and protect major metropolitan areas against terrorist attacks.
According to Census Bureau 2014 estimates, Houston, at 2.24 million people, is the nation’s fourth-largest city. Chicago, rated third largest, had a population of 2.72 million in 2014.
On Sept. 15 Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said the program “offers state and local agencies vital resources to help prepare in protecting against radiological or nuclear terrorist attacks.”
ED STERLING is the Director of Member Services at Texas Press Association.