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Low Income

vision
status = worse

Our basic needs are met.

We have adequate income, resources and
supports to live independent lives.

36% of Travis County residents are low-income

Indicator: Percentage of Travis County residents who are low-income (below 200% of the federal poverty threshold)

Goal: Decrease the % of Travis County residents who are low-income

Target: 30% by 2017

Significance of Indicator: The Urban Institute defines people as low-income when they earn less than 200% of the federal poverty threshold. In 2011, a family was considered to be low-income if they earned 200% of the federal poverty threshold (roughly $45,622 for a family of four with two children).

what the data tell us

The percentage of people in Travis County who are low‐income did not change from 2011 to 2012. Low-income rates remain higher than pre-recession levels. The percentage of people who are low-income in the city and the county remains higher than the percentage of low-income people across the nation. In Travis County, an estimated 385,000 people are living in conditions where they may not have enough money to make ends meet.

Definition: Percent of individuals living below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1 Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

the story behind the indicator

Most low-income families have at least one adult who works full-time in a job or jobs that do not provide benefits. The Urban Institute explains that many of these families may experience hardships related to food, housing and healthcare. Children are significantly more likely to be living in low-income situations than adults. People with lower incomes are: less likely to be kindergarten ready, less likely to be college-ready, more likely to smoke, more likely to be obese, less likely to have health insurance, more likely to report poor mental health , and less likely to find housing that they can afford.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

a closer look at the story behind the indicator:

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» More Data on the Low-Income Population

% of children and youth under age 18 who are low-income

Children and youth are much more likely to be living in low-income conditions than adults. The percentage of children and youth in Travis County increased slightly in 2012 to 46%. There are approximately 118,755 low-income children and youth in Travis County. Travis’s County has a higher percentage of low-income children than the general U.S. child and youth population.

Definition: Percent of individuals under the age of 18 living below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1 Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

% of Central Texas children entering kindergarten school ready by economic status

Children from non-low income families in Central Texas are much more likely to enter kindergarten school ready than their low income peers. In 2013, 44% of low income children were school ready compared to 64% of non-low income children.

Definition: Percent of children who were assessed school ready by economic status

Data Source: E3 Alliance

Data Considerations: This data is based on a sample of students from various Central Texas school districts. There are variations in the sample size and in districts represented in the data sample across years. This data was collected during assessments done over kindergarteners’ first six to nine weeks of school. Children were assessed across four domains of child development: social/emotional, language and communication, early literacy, and mathematics. This data has been aggregated by E3 Alliance.

Travis County graduates who are college ready by economic status

Economically disadvantaged students are much less likely to graduate from high school college ready than non-economically disadvantaged students. For the Class of 2010, 25% of economically disadvantaged graduates in Travis County were college ready compared to 63% of non-economically disadvantaged students.

Definition: Percent of high school graduates who scored at or above the criterion score on both the TAKS, SAT, or ACT English language arts and mathematics tests. To learn more about college readiness criterion visit the TEA’s website, here. Travis County is here defined as an aggregate of data from school districts that are located either wholly or partly within Travis County: Austin, Del Valle, Eanes, Lago Vista, Lake Travis, Leander, Manor, Pflugerville, and Round Rock.

Data Source: Texas Education Agency. Data was aggregated by the E3 Alliance

Data Considerations: This data does not include the college readiness rates of high school seniors who dropped out, continued high school, or received a GED.

% of adults in Travis County who are current smokers by income

People with low incomes are generally more likely to smoke than people with higher incomes. In 2012, 16% of Travis County residents with incomes less than $25,000 and 17% of residents with incomes between $25,000-$74,999 reported being smokers. Only 9% of people with incomes of $75,000 or greater reported being smokers.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and older who smoke everyday or some days and have smoked 100 cigarettes in their lifetime by income

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. In 2011 the surveying process was expanded to include people with cell phones as well as people with landlines. As a result, this data is not comparable to BRFSS data from years prior to 2011. The sample sizes for BRFSS data are very small. Changes shown in this graph fall within the margin of error for the data and are not statistically significant.

% of adults in Travis County who are obese by income

Obesity rates are higher for people with lower incomes. In 2012, 29% of adults with incomes less than $25,000 were obese compared to 27% of adults with incomes between $25,000 and $74,999 and 15% of adults with incomes over $75,000.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by income

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. In 2011 the surveying process was expanded to include people with cell phones as well as people with landlines. As a result, this data is not comparable to BRFSS data from years prior to 2011. The sample sizes for BRFSS data are very small. Changes shown in this graph fall within the margin of error for the data and are not statistically significant.

% of adults in Travis County who report poor mental health by income

People with low-incomes report higher levels of poor mental health. In 2012, 27% of adults in Travis County with incomes less than $25,000 reported poor mental health. This compares to 23% of adults with incomes between $25,000 and $74,999 and 17% of adults with incomes of $75,000 or higher.

Definition: Adults who report to have had 5 or more days of poor mental health which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, within the last 30 days

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. In 2011 the surveying process was expanded to include people with cell phones as well as people with landlines. As a result, this data is not comparable to BRFSS data from years prior to 2011. The sample sizes for BRFSS data are very small. Changes shown in this graph fall within the margin of error for the data and are not statistically significant.

% of individuals in Travis County with no health insurance coverage by economic status

In 2012, 33% of Travis County’s low-income residents were uninsured. This compares to 11% of Travis County residents who were not low-income. The percentage of low-income individuals who were uninsured dropped for every jurisdiction on this graph from 2010 to 2012.

Definition: Individuals with no private or public health insurance coverage for the civilian non-institutionalized population by economic status

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1 Year Estimates

Data Considerations:The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

» Poverty Data: The Most Vulnerable of the Low-Income Population

% of individuals Living Below the Poverty Level

In 2012, 18% of individuals in Travis County (197,657 people) were living below the federal poverty level. This is a slight decrease from the percentage of people living in poverty in 2011. Travis County has a higher poverty rate than the MSA and the nation and a poverty rate that matches the State of Texas.

Definition: Percent of individuals living below 100% of the federal poverty threshold. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

% of Children and Youth Living Below the Poverty Level

More than one in four (26%) of all children and youth in Travis County are living below the poverty level. This means that in 2012, 67,791 Travis County children and youth were living in poverty. Children and youth are much more likely to be living in poverty than adults or seniors.

Definition: Percent of individuals under the age of 18 living below 100% of the federal poverty threshold. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

% of Children Under the Age of Five Living Below the Poverty Level

In 2012, 26% of children under the age of five in Travis County were living below the federal poverty level. This is a slight decrease from the percentage of children under the age of five living in poverty in 2011. Travis County has a lower under five poverty rate than the State of Texas.

Definition: Percent of individuals under the age of 5 living below 100% of the federal poverty threshold. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

% of individuals in Travis County living in poverty by race and ethnicity

Hispanics and Blacks have the highest poverty rates in Travis County. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanics and 27% of Blacks were living in poverty in 2012. The percentages of Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites living in poverty are much lower. In 2012, 15% of Asians and 10% of Non-Hispanic Whites were living in poverty.

Definition: Percent of individuals living below 100% of the federal poverty threshold by race and ethnicity. Federal Poverty Thresholds, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau can be accessed here. “Hispanic” is classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as an “ethnicity” and not as a “race.” As a result, the Asian and Black categories may include some people who also identify as Hispanic.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1-Year Estimates

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation’s population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

» Children's Optimal Health Maps

Concentrations of Low-Income Mothers Delivering in 2009

This map shows that there are four areas in Austin where there are high concentrations of low-income mothers delivering babies (indicated by the circles on the map): the southern part of the 78750 and 78753 zip codes, the eastern portion of 78752 and the northern portion of 78723, the 78741 zip code, and the Dove Springs neighborhood in 78744.

Map showing the greater Austin metropolitan area accenting the areas with high concentrations of low-income mothers delivering in 2009

Definition: The proportion of births to low-income mothers by neighborhoods in Austin in 2009

Data Source: Data was collected by the Integrated Care Collaboration (ICC). The map was created by Children's Optimal Health.

Data Considerations: The total number of births reported by ICC declined between 2007 and 2009 by 16.3% from a peak of 6,148 recorded births.

» map showing low-income population concentrations

map of low-income population concentrations

This map shows where low-income populations are concentrated across the five-county region. Travis County's low-income populations are strongly concentrated in the east side of the county. Other areas where more than 40% of the population are low-income (indicated by red) include: areas of eastern Williamson County around Georgetown, Talyor, Hutto, and parts of Round Rock; various areas of Bastrop County; San Marcos and surrounding areas along the I-35 corridor; and sections of Caldwell County, particularly Lockhart and Luling. Low-income rates in areas surrounding the University of Texas and Texas State University may be skewed due to large student populations with limited personal income.

Definition: Percent of individuals living below 200% of the federal poverty level. Federal Poverty Guidelines can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates (2008-2012).

Data Considerations: The American Community Survey samples 3% of the Nation's population. Due to small sample sizes, margins of error are increased and hard to reach populations may not be accurately represented in the data.

vulnerable populations

An analysis of poverty data by Travis County's Research and Planning Department found that the following populations are more likely to live in poverty:

The Urban Institute defines people as low-income when they earn less than 200% of the federal poverty threshold. In 2011, a family was considered to be low-income if they earned 200% of the federal poverty threshold (roughly $45,622 for a family of four with two children). Broad data analyses indicate that that the same populations living in poverty are also the ones who are likely to be low-income.

turning the curve

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, the City of Austin Downtown Austin Plan, the City of Austin Comprehensive Housing Market Study, and the City of Austin's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department's FY2009-2014 Consolidated Plan recommend expanding the availability of affordable housing for very low-income and moderate income households and creating additional permanent supportive housing units.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Austin Community College (ACC) District's Facilities Master Plan, and the Community Advancement Network's (CAN) Frequently Asked Questions about Basic Needs suggest different approaches to strengthening workforce development efforts targeted at the people who are low-income in our community. ECHO recommends expanding workforce development programs that address the issue of insufficient wages and that are targeted at the homeless in our community; ACC recommends locating workforce development programs in areas where there are high concentrations of low-income people; and CAN's document recommends using economic development incentives for employers as a means to increase workers' skills and wages.

The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan,the City of Austin's Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department's FY2009-2014 Consolidated Plan , and the Community Advancement Network's (CAN) Frequently Asked Questions about Basic Needs recommend ensuring that low-income working families have adequate work supports. Some examples of work supports are Earned Income Tax Credits, childcare assistance, public health insurance coverage, and housing assistance.

Access to good paying jobs is one way to turn the curve on this indicator. The dashboard page on unemployment has other related recommendations for turning the curve.