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Number of Texans in Poverty at 4.5 Million

PHOTO: The poverty rate in the state is down, while the median household income is up, but it's little to celebrate with the movement minimal and 4.5 million Texans still living below the poverty line. Photo credit: Charles Henry/Flickr.
PHOTO: The poverty rate in the state is down, while the median household income is up, but it's little to celebrate with the movement minimal and 4.5 million Texans still living below the poverty line. Photo credit: Charles Henry/Flickr.
September 19, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas - Latest figures show the poverty rate has dropped in Texas, although the change is minimal and in some parts of the state, the financial struggles for families are much more widespread. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the statewide poverty rate has dipped to 17.5 percent, although it's double that in the Rio Grande Valley. A similar gap exists in wages, says Amber Arriaga-Salinas director of public relations with Proyecto Azteca.

"Looking at the 2008-2012 census numbers, in Texas the median family income was $51,563. For the valley, it was $33,219," says Arriaga-Salinas.

Increasing the minimum wage in Texas, says Arriaga-Salinas, would greatly help the working poor improve their financial security. One small step has already been taken, with approval by the Hidalgo County Commissioners to increase the minimum for county employees to $10.10 an hour in the upcoming year.

Arriaga-Salinas says another issue is the valley is severely under counted in the Census Bureau's population estimates, which federal agencies use as the basis for dividing program funding.

"In areas like colonias here, people have several addresses; they move a lot," says Arriaga-Salinas. "Calling won't work because they change their cellphone several times. Door knocking is difficult as well because if someone comes with a clipboard, they're afraid it's someone coming to disconnect their lights or water because that's the situation that we're in."

Nationally, the poverty rate in 2013 was down from the previous year for the first time since 2006, although there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX