January is Poverty Awareness Month. Here are some facts:
- Texas has a high rate of poverty, and it’s been rising in the last several years. One in five Texans, or about four million of us, live in poverty.
- Nearly a third of them are children.
- Almost a quarter of women are poor.
- Black and Hispanic folks are almost three times as likely to be poor as white folks here.
The Texas Tribune has a useful page that breaks down the demographics of poverty in Texas, county by county. Here in Travis County, about 150,000 people are below the federal poverty line – which is just $22,350 for a family of four. 54% of them are women. About a third are children.
None of this is acceptable.
One factor at work here is that women get stuck in lower-paying jobs and make less money. The National Partnership for Women and Families just put out a really well-done but very scary infographic on the pay gap for women of color. We’ve all heard that women make about $.77 for every dollar a man makes. But that’s deceptive. It’s true that, on average, white women make about that 3/4 mark. But African-American/black women make about $.64 for every dollar a white man makes, and Hispanic/Latina women make just $.55! So, white folks, get out of your head the welfare queen stereotypes you might harbor; women of color often get stuck in grueling, low-paying service sector jobs in which they work very hard for very little.
In the richest country in the world, where we talk all the time about equality, this is horrifying. We’ve got work to do, y’all.
For further reading:
- UT government Professor Henry Dietz’ short, well-written summary of facts on poverty in Texas
- The Texas Food Bank Network’s page on poverty in Texas and their take on legislative solutions