A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that the number of Texas children living in areas of high poverty has increased 43 percent over the last 10 years. That means more than 1.1 million children live in neighborhoods where at least 30 percent of the families are at or below the poverty line.
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
“This really does look at the environment in which the child and the family live,” said Laura Speer, an associate director at the foundation. Speer said that even children from middle-class families are affected by the environment that surrounds areas of concentrated poverty.
“They have a harder time accessing things like good schools, quality health care. They're more likely to be experiencing high levels of stress. They're more likely to struggle in school,” Speer said. “They have difficulty once they get there and are more prone to drop out.”
Some argue that if higher-income families move into low-income neighborhoods, businesses can be enticed to move into those areas and provide jobs to help boost incomes. But that only works if families at the poverty line can afford to continue living in the neighborhood.
Local groups that advocate for the poor hope the new data will help bolster some anti-poverty programs already in place. Don Baylor Jr. of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a liberal state policy think tank, said one such program emphasizes saving as a way to break the poverty cycle.
“The research has shown that if you have two families, both that make $30,000, the kids that were raised in the families that save more emerged from poverty at about twice the rate than those that didn’t save, even though they had the same income,” Baylor said.
The center said recent cuts to the state budget did not cause the increase in children living in high-poverty areas, but that the cuts — specifically those to health care providers and schools — won't help reverse the trend.