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Poverty

vision
status = better

Our basic needs are met.

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

13% of Travis County residents live in poverty

Indicator: Percentage of Travis County residents who earn less than 100% of the federal poverty threshold

Goal: Decrease the percent of Travis County residents who live in poverty

Target: 15% by 2020

Significance of Indicator: According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, it takes at least two times the federal poverty level for families and individuals in Austin to make ends meet. People living below the poverty threshold face severe hardships.

Key Trends: The percentage of Travis County residents living below the federal poverty threshold decreased in 2015 to 13%, with 153,579 residents living in poverty. This surpasses the community target of 15%. All three local jurisdictions—Travis County, the City of Austin and the five-county Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)—have poverty rates that are below pre-Recession levels. The poverty threshold is set annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and varies by family type and size. In 2015, this was equivalent to $24,036 for a family of four with two adults and two children and $19,096 for a family of three with one adult and two children.

Children have the highest rates of poverty. Almost one-fifth of Travis County children live in poverty (18%), and for children under the age of 5, the rate is slightly higher (19%). The local poverty rates for Hispanics (21%) and African Americans (21%) are more than twice the rate for Asians (9%) and Whites (8%).

what the data tell us

Despite a slight increase in 2014, the percentage of Travis County residents living below the federal poverty threshold has decreased to under 2008 levels. The 2015 poverty rate (13%) was below the County’s low of 15% in 2008 ,showing a five-year trend of declining poverty rates. The number of people living in poverty in Travis County has also decreased. In 2015, an estimated 153,579 people in Travis County lived below the federal poverty threshold, a decrease of approximately 40,174 residents from the previous year. Poverty rates also fell for the City of Austin and the five-county Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

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: Table B17002 - Ratio of Income to Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months, 2015 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

The poverty rate in Travis County decreased in 2015. Poverty, those earning less than 100% of the federal poverty threshold, in Travis County hit its highest rate of 19% in 2010, just after the end of the Great Recession. With the percentage of people living in poverty in Travis County down to 13% , the rate has now dropped below pre-recession levels. Despite a decrease of approximately 40,174 residents from the previous year, the number of people in Travis County living in poverty continues to be an area of concern. In 2015 an estimated 153,579 people lived below the federal poverty threshold. People living in poverty are increasingly likely to live outside Austin’s city limits where access to services and public transportation is limited.

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 poverty than adults. People who live in poverty or 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.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» Children and Youth Living Below the Poverty Level

About one in five (18%) children and youth under the age of 18 in Travis County were living below the poverty level in 2015. This equated to approximately 48,676 Travis County children living in poverty. Children 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: Table B17024 - Age by Ratio of Income to Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months, 2015 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.

» Travis County Children by Race & Ethnicity

An estimated 9,761 Black children and 34,859 Hispanic children in Travis County live in poverty. The graph below depicts the number of children living in households with incomes above the poverty line and the number of children living in households with incomes below the poverty line for each racial category. The number of children living in households with incomes below the poverty line is much lower for White children (5,026) and Asian children (575).

Definition: Number of individuals under the age of 18 living below and above 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: Tables B17001B, B17001D, B17001H, and B17001I, Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Sex by Age (Black, Asian, White non-Hispanic, and Hispanic, respectively), 2015 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.

» Travis County Children: Percent in Poverty

An estimated 38% of Black children and 28% of Hispanic children in Travis County live in poverty. Approximately 34,859 Hispanic children and youth, under the age of 18, live in households with incomes below the poverty line. Approximately 9,761 Black or African American children live in poverty. Poverty rates are much lower for White children (5%) and Asian children (4%).

Definition: Number of individuals under the age of 18 living below and above 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: Tables B17001B, B17001D, B17001H, and B17001I, Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Sex by Age (Black, Asian, White non-Hispanic, and Hispanic, respectively), 2015 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

Children below the age of five have the highest rates of poverty among age groups. In 2015, 19% of children under the age of five in Travis County lived below the federal poverty threshold. Over the past five years, there has been a downward trend in childhood poverty for the City of Austin, Travis County and the five-county Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

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: Table B17001 Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Sex by Age, 2015 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

The poverty rate for Hispanics and African-Americans in Travis County is more than double the poverty rate for Asians and Whites. Twenty-one percent of Hispanics and African-Americans had incomes below poverty thresholds in 2015. The percentages of Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites living in poverty are much lower. In 2015, 9% of Asians and 8% 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: Table S1701 Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months, 2015 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.

» Percent of Individuals with Low Incomes

The percentage of Travis County who are low-income continued a decline that began with the of the Great Recession in 2010. All jurisdictions reported below have seen a decline in the percent of residents who are low-income over the past five years. In 2015, 31% of Travis County residents, an estimated 362,208 people, were low-income compared to 36% in 2011. The Urban Institute defines people as low-income when they earn less than 200% of the federal poverty threshold. In 2015, this was equivalent to $48,036 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $38,146 for a family of three (one parent and two children).

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 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: Table B17002 - Ratio of Income to Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months, 2015 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 Who Are Low-Income

Children and youth are more likely to be low-income than adults. The estimated percentage of low-income children and youth under the age of 18 in Travis County decreased from 2014 (43%) to 2015 (42%), but this change may not be statistically significant. There are an estimated 111,473 low-income children and youth in Travis County. The share of children who live in families with low incomes in Travis County continues to remain 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: Table B17024 Age by Ratio of Income To Poverty level in the Past 12 Months, 2015 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.

» Low-Income Children by Living Arrangement

Children living with one parent are more likely to live in a family with a low– or poverty-level income than children living with two parents. In 2014, 63% of children living with one parent lived in a family with income below twice the federal poverty thresholds, compared to 32% of children living with two parents. There were 52,683 children with low-incomes living with one parent and 54,044 children living with two parents in Travis County in 2014.

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: Table B05010 Ratio of Income to Poverty Level in the Past 12 Months by Nativity of Children Under 18 Years in Families and Subfamilies by Living Arrangements and Nativity of Parents, 2015 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 poverty by census tract

 

This map shows where populations with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty thresholds are concentrated across the five-county region. Census tracts with high percentages of residents living in poverty are concentrated in central Austin, 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 and 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 (2010-2014)

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: 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 Thresholds can be accessed here.

Data Source: American Community Survey, 5-Year Data (2010-2014)

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.

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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 2014, this was equivalent to $47,700 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $39,580 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 2014, this was equivalent to $23,850 for a family of four (two parents and two children) or $19,790 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: