Report: Black, Latino Children Face Massive Well-Being Disparities in Texas

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Report: Black, Latino Children Face Massive Well-Being Disparities in Texas

Teddy Wilson

Forty-two percent of Latino students and 32 percent of Black students are enrolled in high-poverty school districts, compared to 6 percent of white students.

One in four children in Texas live in poverty, with Black and Latino children more than three times more likely to live in poverty than white children. 

That’s according to a new report by the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), which outlined the need for Texas policymakers to ensure that the state’s increasingly diverse population of children have equitable access to education, health care, and other services.

Nineteen percent of Texas children live in “high-poverty” neighborhoods, which are defined as census tracts with poverty rates of 30 percent or more. “Structures that support children and families, such as high-quality schools, child care centers, doctors, and grocery stores are less likely to be located in high-poverty areas,” according to the report.

The CPPP report, called the “State of Texas Children 2016,” found that 30 percent of Latino children and 23 percent of Black children live in these neighborhoods, compared to 4 percent of white children living in high-poverty neighborhoods.

The report analyzed the state’s children according to five statistical measures: demographics, poverty, health, education, and gender. The report made recommendations for how the state’s legislators can improve outcomes in those areas.

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The report is part an annual review of the well-being of the state’s children in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS Count Project. Texas ranked 41st nationally in child well-being in 2015.

“Despite Texas’ vast resources, the state is consistently ranked among the worst states for child well-being,” the report stated. “We have to ‘raise the bar’ in child well-being for all kids, because ranking 41st in child well-being simply isn’t good enough for Texas.”

Ann Beeson, executive director of CPPP, wrote in the report’s introduction that Texas is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s worst states for children and that too many children face tremendous barriers to opportunity because of their race, ethnicity, or gender.

“This report examines why there are such significant disparities in child well-being by race and ethnicity, what policies may have created, promoted or ignored differential barriers that children face, and how smart public policies can raise the bar for all kids while closing the gaps in child well-being for children of color,” Beeson wrote.

There are seven million children, the majority of whom are children of color, living in Texas. Half of the children living in Texas are Latino and 11 percent are Black. 

The report examined how children’s race and where they live impacts the likelihood that a child will experience poverty. Disparities in child poverty exist across race, ethnicity, and family type due to policies that have created and maintained unequal opportunities, according to the report.

The report found significant disparities in the health indicators of the state’s children. “The root causes of health disparities are linked to factors like family income, educational and employment opportunities and housing quality,” the report states.

Food insecurity, which is defined as a child living in a household having difficulty meeting basic food needs, affects Black and Latino children at rates nearly twice as high as white children. Food insecurity affects 38 percent of Black children and 31 percent of Latino children.  

Texas has one of the highest uninsured rates for Latino children, 15 percent of whom are uninsured. Overall, 11 percent of children in the state are uninsured.

Educational opportunities are an important statistical indicator of children’s well-being; Black and Latino students face greater barriers to educational attainment than white or Asian students, according to the report.

Black and Latino students are more likely to attend school in high-poverty districts. Forty-two percent of Latino students and 32 percent of Black students are enrolled in high-poverty school districts, compared to 6 percent of white students.

Several policy changes to address the challenges in facing Texas children and improve equal opportunities were recommended in the report. These include using data and analysis to increase equity in child well-being, providing support and pathways out of poverty for parents, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care and education.

“Improving the well-being of every Texas kid will take responsibility and investment,” the report states. “Texans are responsible for learning about issues, getting involved, and trying to improve their communities. The governments of Texas are responsible for engaging with and listening to all constituents and being responsive to what is in the best interest of every Texan.”

The Republican-controlled Texas legislature over the past decade has implemented policies and budget cuts that have had a detrimental and disproportional effect on low-income families, especially in areas that are most essential for improving children’s outcomes.

Jennifer Lee, the report’s author and research associate at CPPP, said in a statement that state lawmakers have an opportunity to adopt targeted solutions that can significantly improve outcomes for all Texans.

CPPP’s strategies for reducing poverty and racial disparities include creating “partnerships between schools, colleges, workforce development programs, and businesses to offer job-based training for youth and parents,” according to the report.

“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,” Lee said.