Texas often touts its record of economic growth, low unemployment rates and its success as a magnet for workers, but who’s thinking about the kids in tow and how well-fed or educated they are? Many people are surprised to find that about one in five kids in Texas lives in poverty.
Today, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a group that advocates for low- to mid-income families and children, is releasing its 2018 State of Texas Children report. The report sheds quite a bit of light on why Texas ranks in the bottom-10 states for child well-being, as one recent survey discovered. So where’s the data and how can Texas improve?
Kristie Tingle, a research analyst for the CPPP, says the reason the state still has 20 percent of children living in poverty is that families don’t have the economic security they need.
“Kids aren’t out there earning their own wages, they can’t get themselves out of poverty,” she says. “So, if their parents aren’t able to make a living wage at their jobs, if they’re not able to access the supports they need, then that’s why these kids are living in poverty.”
Tingle says the data show that parents who are working full time in a minimum-wage job aren’t making enough money to support themselves and their children. Unemployment in the state is low, but she says when jobs don’t pay enough, poverty persists.
In light of the report, Tingle says the CPPP is making two recommendations to the 2019 Texas State Legislature. First, it recommends that the state starts a Complete Count Committee in order to ensure that as many Texas residents as possible are counted in the 2020 Census. It also recommends an overhaul of the school-finance system.
Tingle says that Texas has a lot of reasons to be concerned about undercounting children in the 2020 Census. For one thing, the federal government is adding a citizenship question to the survey. As a result, some Texans might be underrepresented in Congress, and could receive less funding for statewide initiatives for kids like free and reduced lunches.
“We encourage people to use this data in policymaking because we believe that policymaking should be grounded in data and facts,” Tingle says.
Written by Morgan Kuehler.