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Low Income

vision
status = better

Our basic needs are met.

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

33% 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 2013, this was equivalent to $47,414 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $37,538 for a family of three (one parent and two children).

what the data tell us

Over the last five years, the percentage of Travis County residents who have low-incomes has declined as the area continues to recover from the recession. In 2013, 33% of Travis County residents were low-income, down from a high of 37% in 2010. The percentage of people who are low-income in the county fell below the percentage of low-income people across the nation for the first time in recent years. Locally, jurisdictions have seen their share of residents who have low-incomes decline, whereas the U.S. rate has not returned to pre-recession levels. Even though the percentage of people with low-incomes in Travis County has declined, the number of low-income residents has grown steadily since 2000. In Travis County, an estimated 358,974 people live 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

Over the last five years, the percentage of Travis County residents who have low-incomes has declined as the area continues to recover from the recession. In 2013, 33% of Travis County residents were low-income, down from a high of 37% in 2010. Nevertheless, a higher share of residents today are low-income than in 2000. Our area’s growth also means there are many more people with low-incomes today than prior to the recession. People with low-incomes are also increasingly likely to live outside Austin’s city limits. According to analysis by the Brookings Institution, the Austin area had the greatest increase in suburban poverty in the nation between 2000 and 2012.

Low-income residents are those earning less than 200% of the federal poverty thresholds. In 2013, this was equivalent to $47,414 for a family with two parents and two children. An estimated 358,974 people in Travis County had low incomes in 2013.

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 who are low-income fare worse across Community Dashboard indicators. 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, and more likely to report poor mental health.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

Collaborative Initiatives and Organizations

Plans, Data, and Reports

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

Percent Under 18 Who are Low-Income

Children and youth are much more likely to live in families with low-incomes than adults. The percentage of children and youth in Travis County decreased to 41% from a high of 47% in 2010. There are an estimated 104,801 low-income children and youth in Travis County. The share of children who live in families with low incomes in Travis County has declined below both the state and national rates.

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.

Kindergarten 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 2014, 42% of low income children were school ready compared to 65% 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.

% of Central Texas Graduation Rate by Economic Status

Over the past seven years, graduation rates between students with low-incomes and students considered non-low-income have narrowed. Nevertheless, gaps persist. For the Class of 2013, the graduation rate for low-income Central Texas students was 82%, compared to 95% for non-low-income Central Texas students.

Definition: Four year completion rate for grades 9-12, by low-income status

Data Source: Texas Education Agency, E3 Alliance

Data Considerations: This data only includes students who graduated from high school in four years. It does not include students who received their GEDs. This data is not directly comparable to graduation rate data produced for prior graduation classes due to changes in data definitions by the Texas Education Agency. The Central Texas data includes 35 school districts and was aggregated by E3 Alliance. Students are considered low-income if they were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or eligible for other public assistance.

College Readiness 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 2013, 42% of economically disadvantaged graduates in Travis County were college ready compared to 70% of non-economically disadvantaged students.

graph showing percentage of Travis County graduates that are college-ready by economic status

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.

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. The Central Texas data includes 35 school districts and was aggregated by E3 Alliance. Students are considered low-income if they were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or eligible for other public assistance.

Currents Smokers by Income

People with low incomes are generally more likely to smoke than people with higher incomes. In 2013, 18% of Travis County residents with incomes less than $25,000 and 14% of residents with incomes between $25,000-$49,999 reported being smokers. Only 9% of people with incomes of $50,000 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.

Obesity by income

Obesity rates are higher for people with lower incomes. In 2013, 37% of adults with incomes less than $25,000 were obese compared to 27% of adults with incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 and 14% 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 relatively small. Differences appearing on the graph may not be statistically significant at the 95% level and should be interpreted with caution.

poor mental health by income

People with low-incomes generally report higher levels of poor mental health. In 2013, 29% of adults in Travis County with incomes less than $25,000 reported poor mental health. This compares to 20% of adults with incomes between $25,000 and $49,999 and 19% of adults with incomes of $50,000 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 relatively small. Differences appearing on the graph may not be statistically significant at the 95% level and should be interpreted with caution.

Uninsured Under 65 by Economic Status

In 2013, 33% of Travis County’s low-income residents (incomes below 200% of federal poverty thresholds) were uninsured, whereas 13% of Travis County residents who were not low-income lacked insurance. This disparity is true across geographic areas. All Texas jurisdictions below have higher rates of both low-income and non-low-income residents than the United States as a whole.

Definition: Individuals with no private or public health insurance coverage for the civilian non-institutionalized population by economic status; low-income refers to incomes beneath 200% of federal poverty thresholds

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.

» Map: Percent Low-Income by Census Tract

 

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, particularly around U.S. 183 and into southeastern Travis County.. Areas with high low-income populations stretch east into Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, south into Hays County, and northward into eastern and central Williamson County. Low-income rates in areas surrounding the University of Texas and Texas State University are 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, 5-Year Data (2009-2013)

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. This issue is particularly acute for small geographic areas, such as the Census Tracts shown on this map. Caution should be used when interpreting the data for any given Census Tract.

» Map: Poverty by Census Tract

 

This map shows where populations with incomes below 100% of federal poverty thresholds are concentrated across the five-county region. Neighborhoods with high percentages of residents living in poverty are concentrated more centrally. Neighborhoods with high poverty rates are concentrated in North Central Austin near the intersection of US-183 and I-35, far eastern Austin around U.S.-183, the East Riverside corridor, and southeastern Austin below Ben White and on either side of I-35. Census Tracts with poverty rates above 20% are also found in eastern, particularly southeastern, Travis County. Poverty rates in areas surrounding the University of Texas and Texas State University are skewed due to large student populations with limited personal income.

Definition: Percent of individuals living below 100% of the federal poverty level. Federal Poverty Thresholds can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 5-Year Data (2009-2013)

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. This issue is particularly acute for small geographic areas, such as the Census Tracts shown on this map. Caution should be used when interpreting the data for any given Census Tract.

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

Percent of Individuals with Incomes Below the Poverty Level

In 2013, 16% of individuals in Travis County (176,920 people) were living below the federal poverty level. Travis County’s poverty rate has fallen from a high of 19% in 2010, and has fallen close to pre-recession levels.

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.

Percent Under 18 with Incomes Below the Poverty Level

About one in five (22%) of all children and youth in Travis County are living below the poverty level. This means that in 2013, 55,554 Travis County children and youth were living in poverty. Children and youth are more likely to be living in poverty than working-age 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.

Children Under 5 with Incomes Below the Poverty Level

In 2013, 21% of children under the age of five in Travis County were living below the federal poverty level. This represents a decrease from a high of 28% from 2010 to 2011. Travis County has consistently had a lower under five poverty rate than the State of Texas, and in 2013, saw its under 5 poverty rate dip below that of the nation as a whole.

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.

Poverty by Race/Ethnicity

Hispanics and African-Americans have the highest poverty rates in Travis County. Twenty-six percent of Hispanics and 20% of African-Americans had incomes below poverty thresholds in 2013. The percentages of Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites living in poverty are much lower. In 2013, 13% of Asians and 9% of Non-Hispanic Whites had incomes below poverty thresholds. Hispanics appear to have been most affected by the recent recession, as the poverty rate for Hispanics increased substantially beginning in 2009.

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.

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. “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.

vulnerable populations

The Urban Institute defines people as low-income when they earn less than 200% of the federal poverty thresholds. Poverty thresholds vary by family size, number of children, and, for one-and two-person family units, age of the householder. More information on how the Census Bureau determines poverty status can be found here. In 2013, this was equivalent to $47,414 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $37,538 for a family of three (one parent and two children). Poverty status refers to people whose incomes follow below 100% of the federal poverty thresholds. In 2013, this was equivalent to $23,624 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $18,769 for a family of three (one parent and two children). A comprehensive analysis of poverty data by Travis County’s Research and Planning Department found that the following populations are more likely to live in poverty: