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Poverty

vision
status = better

Our basic needs are met.

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

17% 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 poverty rate in Travis County appears to have increased in 2014 for the first time since 2010. Though sample sizes are too small to be conclusive, this is a trend to watch. The American Community Survey estimates 193,753 residents of Travis County lived in poverty in 2014. The poverty threshold is set annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and varies by family type and size. In 2014, this was equivalent to $24,008 for a family of four with two adults and two children and $19,073 for a family of three with one adult and two children.

Children have the highest rates of poverty. Almost one-fourth of Travis County children live in poverty (24%), and for children under the age of 5, the rate is even higher (27%). The local poverty rates for Hispanics (27%) and African Americans (22%) are also higher than the rate overall.

what the data tell us

In 2014, about one-sixth of all Travis County residents (17%) were living in poverty, a rate that is lower than Travis County’s post-recession peak of 19% in 2010. Despite this positive five-year trend, the poverty rate in 2014 did not show the clear decreasing trend line we would hope to see with the end of the Great Recession, as the rate of people living in poverty actually appeared to increase, even with more people working. Overall, the percentage of people living in poverty in Travis County in 2014 was below that of the City of Austin, equivalent to the state, and higher than the nation. Of most concern, however, is the growing number of people living in poverty. In 2014, an estimated 193,753 people in Travis County lived below the federal poverty threshold, an increase of approximately 16,833 residents from the previous year.

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.

the story behind the indicator

The poverty rate in Travis County appeared to increase in 2014 for the first time in five years. Though sample sizes are too small to be conclusive, this is a trend to watch. 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. While the percentage of people living in poverty in Travis County is down from its high of 19%, it has not returned to pre-recession levels.

People living in poverty are increasingly likely to live outside Austin’s city limits where access to services and public transportation is limited. According to analysis by the Brookings Institution, the Austin area had the greatest increase in suburban poverty in the nation between 2000 and 2012.

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 and 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.

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 of the poverty population

Percent Under 18 with Incomes Below the Poverty Level

About one in four (24%) children and youth under the age of 18 in Travis County were living below the poverty level in 2014. This equated to approximately 62,894 Travis County children and youth 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

Children below the age of five are much more likely to live in poverty than adults or youth under the age of 18. In 2014, 27% of children under the age of five in Travis County lived below the federal poverty threshold. This is a significant increase from 21% the previous year. The poverty rate for young children in the City of Austin also increased from 23% to 29% during the same time period, representing an estimated 18,330 children under the age of five living below the federal poverty level.

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-seven percent of Hispanics and 22% of African-Americans had incomes below poverty thresholds in 2014. The percentages of Asians and Non-Hispanic Whites living in poverty are much lower. In 2014, 17% 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.

» 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.

» more data on the low-income population

Percent of Individuals with Low Incomes

For the first time since 2010 the percentage of Travis County low-income residents increased, ending the year-over-year decline that began with the end of the Great Recession in 2010. In 2014, 34% of Travis County residents were low-income, equating to an estimated 379,254 people living in conditions where they may not have enough money to make ends meet. The Urban Institute defines people as low-income when they earn less than 200% of the federal poverty threshold. In 2014, this was equivalent to $48,016 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 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 Who are Low-Income

Children and youth are more likely to be low-income than adults. The percentage of low-income children and youth under the age of 18 in Travis County increased from 2013 (41%) to 2014 (43%), but remains lower than its post-recession high of 47% in 2010. There are an estimated 113,960 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.

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: 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 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.

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: