More schoolchildren in Central Texas living in poverty – Austin American
By Juan Castillo
About 1 in 4 school-age children in Travis, Bastrop and Caldwell counties lived in poverty in 2010 higher than the national average and the poverty rate for schoolchildren has risen since the recession began in 4 of 5 counties in the Austin metro area, according to census estimates Tuesday reflecting the effects of the weakened economy.
“As more families are being affected by the recession, obviously children are affected, too. The face of hunger may not be who you think it is,” said John Turner, a spokesman for the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.
The Census Bureau said the child poverty rate rose significantly between 2007 and 2010 in 1 of every 5 counties across the country, and nearly 1 in 5 schoolchildren — 19.8 percent — lived in poverty last year.
But the child poverty rate was sharply higher in Texas in 2010 — 25.7 percent, or 1.8 million children. Only California had more children in poverty, with 2 million.
Tuesday’s census report, which included previously released data, contained estimates for income and poverty in 2010 for every county and school district. The census compiles estimates on childhood poverty every year.
The federal government sets the poverty threshold at about $22,000 for a family of four.
According to the data, among children ages 5-17 in families living in the Austin school district, 28.4 percent lived in poverty in 2010, compared with 23.8 percent in 2009.
Poverty rates among school-age children increased in 2010 in several other area school districts, exceeding 20 percent in Del Valle, Manor, Elgin, San Marcos, Taylor and Bastrop.
The numbers are for all children living in each district, including those home-schooled and attending private schools.
According to the census estimates, 24.5 percent of all Travis County children under 18 lived in poverty in 2010, compared with 18.3 percent in 2007, when the recession began . Among the Austin metro area’s counties, only Caldwell had a higher child poverty rate — 25.7 percent, down from 26 percent in 2007.
In Bastrop County, 24.4 percent of children under 18 were in poverty in 2010, compared with 18 percent in 2007. In Hays County, 14.4 percent of children were in poverty in 2010, compared with 13.1 in 2007; Williamson County had 11 percent in poverty in 2010, compared with 7.9 percent in 2007.
Nationwide, the 2010 estimates show that about one-third, or 1,011, of all counties had school-age poverty rates significantly higher than the national poverty rate of 19.8 percent.
Census poverty data released earlier this year showed that more Central Texans are struggling to make ends meet, and that children and families are among the hardest hit. The news was particularly sobering for Austin, which for decades has touted its economic resiliency as a key for its fast growth.
Turner, the spokesman for the Austin-based food bank, said more than 40 percent of the nonprofit group’s clients are children. The agency serves about 48,000 people per week through its programs, including food distribution and school meals.
About 20,000 are children, compared with 12,000 in 2005, Turner said.
A census report in September showed more Austinites living in poverty, on food stamps and with shrinking median family household incomes in 2010. More than 1 in 5 people and nearly 28 percent of children younger than 18 lived in poverty — the third consecutive year the poverty rate increased in the capital.
About 18 percent of all Texans lived in poverty in 2010, more than 3 percentage points above the national average.
Using a new measure that for the first time takes into account rising medical costs and other expenses, the Census Bureau said earlier this month that a record number of Americans — 49.1 million — are poor. The report did not contain state figures.
Additional material from staff writer Andrea Ball.
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