Social policy and health scholars wait nervously at the end of each summer for the Census Bureau to release its annual report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States. This report is one of the most important national scorecards on our collective health and wellbeing.
Most of us breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the impressive gains in median income and declines in the proportion of us living in poverty and lacking health insurance in this newest release (2015). After years of stagnation, especially for those at the bottom end of the income distribution, incomes grew considerably. This growth occurred for all income levels and race and ethnic groups; in fact, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us saw the greatest gains – a fact to truly celebrate.
Despite these important gains, scholars here in the South continue to lament that our region trails the rest of the country. Whereas median household income grew 5.2% for the average household in the U.S., it grew only 2.9% for those of us living in the South. Our poverty rate is 15.3% compared to the national average of 13.5%, and in Texas, we have nearly double the rate of uninsured households (17.1%) than the rest of the country (9.1%).
State-level data will be released tomorrow, so we will have more detailed information on how Texas is doing compared to other Southern states and compared to the U.S. as a whole. But if history is a guide, the numbers will show we have a lot of work to do to live up to the goals we all have for our great state. More than 1 out of every 10 children in the U.S. is born in Texas; therefore, the wellbeing of our Texas children and families fuels the wellbeing of the whole nation. Our growth is not only important for a robust economy and society here in Texas, but it is vital for the health and wellbeing of the country as a whole.
Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D.
Director, Child and Family Research Partnership
Director, Center for Health and Social Policy
Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs