This week, the Center for Public Policy Priorities released its annual “State of Texas Children” report, detailing how children are faring in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, the report’s snapshot of child welfare in Texas is not a pretty picture.
One of the report’s key findings was that 1.7 million children, or one-fourth of Texas kids, are currently living in poverty. That’s the same rate as two years ago. The racial disparities among kids living in poverty are stark. 1.1 million of the children living in poverty are Latino, 277,000 are black, 241,000 are white, and 31,000 are Asian. In fact, the poverty rate for Latino children in Texas is three times the rate for white children.
The report found similar racial and ethnic disparities around health and education. 38% of black children in Texas face food insecurity, a rate that is nearly twice that of white children. The state also still has one of the highest percentages of children without health insurance in the country (11%) and the rate of Latino children who are uninsured is over twice the rate of white children who are uninsured.
When it comes to education achievement, minority children also face higher barriers than their white peers. Black and Latino children are underrepresented in Advanced Placement math, science, and engineering courses, and they have much lower high school graduation rates than white or Asian kids. Moreover, black students face the added difficulty of being more likely to attend schools with more inexperienced teachers and higher teacher turnover.
These childhood health and education disparities are troubling not just in the present, but because they have important implications for Texas’s future. When poor black and Latino kids are less healthy and less likely to get an education, they are unable to gain the tools they need to set themselves up for the future. This makes them more likely to remain in poverty as adults, and have their kids grow up facing the same barriers as well. It creates a cycle of poverty, from which it is increasingly difficult to emerge.
CPPP’s report contains important policy recommendations as well. It encourages Texas lawmakers to focus on creating pathways out of poverty, and promoting equity for all children. As CPPP research associate and report author Jennifer Lee said in a statement (emphasis added):
Lawmakers have a tremendous opportunity to adopt targeted solutions that can significantly improve outcomes for all Texans…From analyzing data by race and ethnicity whenever possible to helping craft state and local policies, to expanding nutrition and healthcare programs, common sense solutions are available to lawmakers now that can improve the state of Texas children.“
It is an important message that is crucial to the future of Texas. All that’s left is for our lawmakers to stop getting indicted long enough to listen.