College of Liberal Arts

African Americans in Texas See Decreased Economic Mobility, Policy Report Shows

Tue, May 21, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas — The economic status of African Americans in Texas has significantly declined during the first decade of the 21st century, according to a policy report released by the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis (IUPRA) at The University of Texas at Austin.

The report, led by IUPRA Research Fellow Shetal Vohra-Gupta, raises important questions about several issues, such as racial disparities in economic status of families, including median income and overall poverty rate. The economic toll is greatest among African American single mothers.

“These inequalities speak to an economic system that needs to be redefined so that all races have equal opportunity, access and results,” Vohra-Gupta says. “This begins with introducing policies that tackle quality of education, pay equality, improved child care services and improved health and mental health services. When single mothers of color face racial disparities, the impact lasts for generations.”

Vohra-Gupta and a team of researchers examined statewide economic and demographic data to compare poverty levels between African Americans and other racial groups in Texas. The researchers analyzed economic status, poverty distribution and change patterns from 2000 to 2010. According to the findings:

  • Among all racial groups in Texas, African Americans had the lowest median household income (about $29,000 to $36,000). The figures for whites far exceeded African Americans and Hispanics, while Asians had the highest median household income levels.
  • The most pervasive poverty was experienced among African Americans living in East Texas, where median incomes are below $25,000. Central Texas, much of South Texas and the counties around Houston and Dallas had, on average, slightly higher median incomes ranging between $25,000 and $32,000 in 2000 and $32,000 to 39,000 in 2010.
  • Five Texas counties with an African American population of more than 5,000 — Hunt, Grass, Walker, Jasper and Wharton — experienced income decline in 2010.
  • More than 70 percent of African American female-headed households were in poverty.
  • African Americans’ income growth increased at a much slower rate than the white population’s. And their median household income remained at a lower level than those of Hispanics, whites, Asians and the average of all racial groups.
  • African Americans and Hispanics were highly over­represented among Texas’ poor population, while whites were highly underrepresented.

The researchers also found that more than 20 percent of African Americans did not have health insurance in Texas. This rate was higher than the figure for whites and below the state average. The lack of health insurance coverage might discourage their consumer and investment behavior, Vohra-Gupta says.

King Davis, professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and IUPRA director, says the report addresses the need for antipoverty policies and programs for African Americans.

"The state's favorable economic condition continues to bypass these communities and families,” Davis says. “Dr. Gupta's findings make it clear that unless changes are made soon, the quality of life for black families will decline for the remainder of the decade."

The Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis, along with the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, comprise the three branches of Black Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. To read this and other IUPRA policy briefs, go to the IUPRA website.

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