It Really Sucks to Be a Kid In Texas
Dallas County kids are some of the poorest in the country, but recent grassroots programs are helping to improve those numbers.
And we're not just talking about the unaccompanied Central American variety. A new report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities zeroes in on a national study ranking child well-being. Several factors come into play, including health care, education, parental employment, and standard of living.
Texas ranks 43rd in overall child well-being, with roughly a quarter of Texas children live below the poverty line. Specifically, Texas ranks 47th in the Family and Community category, with 19 percent of kids living in high-poverty neighborhoods.
It's part of an annual report card by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that measures state and national child well-being. Frances Deviney, Executive Director of the Texas KIDS COUNT program with the CPPP, says that most indicators of success and failure are affected by state and local policies.
"Those states where children are doing better often have policies in place to make sure kids have the building blocks they need to succeed," she says. "In comparison to other states Texas hasn't really put forth the policies to make sure Texas kids have the same economic opportunities."
On the local level, Dallas numbers are even more dismal than state numbers. In 2013, 30 percent of Dallas County kids lived below the poverty line, compared to a 22 percent national average. And over 13 percent of local kids have no health insurance, which is double the national average.
"It's a much higher poverty rate in Dallas, and we do see that in our urban areas," says Deviney. "When you're looking at available jobs, most of jobs that came back for people after the recession were low wage jobs. So were seeing more households that are working, but higher poverty rates, and a lot service jobs or low-skill jobs that don't pay a living wage in a metro area or offer benefits."
On the bright side, Dallas is clearly working to bring up its numbers. Mayor Mike Rawlings recently launched an anti-poverty task force initiative, and Deviney cites local nonprofits that are making small but significant strides in promoting early childhood education and Dallas ISD's Breakfast in the Classroom initiative. Each of these movements can help improve local quality of life numbers.
"Dallas has a lot of work ahead but they are starting to make really great strides," says Deviney. "I think the fact that you have these community wide conversation is a huge step in battling these more daunting numbers."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.