Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The State of the State Down Here in Texas

Two weeks of vacation time, plus the July 4th holiday, provided a much needed break from the daily press of things here at Central Dallas Ministries. I can't remember when I last took over two weeks off at one stretch. I enjoyed the down time.

Back at work it doesn't take long to confront reality.

Last week the Center for Public Policy Priorities and the national Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2006 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a national report that examines the well-being of children in all 50 states.

The detailed state report, down to each of Texas' 254 counties, will be issued this fall.

The preliminary report provides a glimpse at the facts of life here in Texas, one of the most wealthy states in the nation. Here are a few tidbits to consider:

  • The percentage of Texas children living in poverty in has increased by 5 percent since 2000. To be considered as "living in poverty," a family of four would earn $15,219 per year or less. In Texas, 23% of the children live in poverty, well above the national average of 18%.

  • Low-birth weight babies increased 7% from 2000 to 2003.

  • Infant mortality increased by 16% from 2000 to 2003. As a result, Texas dropped from 9th to 22nd place among the states for this indicator.

  • A great concern is that 1 in 10 Texas children live in extreme poverty (50% of the poverty level--less than $8,000 annually for a family of four), a 10% increase since 2000.

  • In addition, 1 in 2 children live in low-income families (200% of the poverty level), a 9% increase since 2000. Bottom line: poverty is on a significant growth path in Texas.

  • In 2004, only 75% of two-year-olds in Texas were immunized, down from 78% in 2003. Only Nevada had a lower percentage of immunized children (71%).

"Texas needs to get serious about fighting poverty and its siblings—low birthweight, high infant mortality, and low immunization," said Frances Deviney, the director of the Texas KIDS COUNT. "How can we continue to believe Texas is the greatest state in the country to live when we can’t take care of the most fragile among us?"

Of course, we cannot.

These statistics reflect on social conditions among low-income Texans that call for a comprehensive, community-wide response. Texas government, public policy makers, faith communities and leaders and concerned citizens from every quarter must come together to create a new movement devoted to simply doing better by our children. It will take everyone working together to push the bench marks back toward the positive.

It can be done, but do we have the will?

I do find it interesting that. in view of these rather disheartening facts, the facts of childhood poverty and health disparities between rich and poor children have not yet become major issues worthy of significant conversation by any of the candidates in the current race for Texas Governor.

Makes a person wonder if anyone really understands or, worse yet, cares about these matters. Possibly the candidates' campaign staffs have access to polling data that indicates such concerns are a low priority among those most likely to vote.

Sad, indeed.

KIDS COUNT is a national initiative funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to track the well-being of children across the 50 states. Each state runs its own KIDS COUNT program.

Texas’ KIDS COUNT effort is run through the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a nonprofit, nonpartisan Austin think tank.

To read CPPP’s press release, visit http://srv.ezinedirector.net/?n=1327531&s=46629338. To access the complete report, visit http://srv.ezinedirector.net/?n=1327532&s=46629338.

4 comments:

KentF said...

Welcome back Larry - glad you were able to get away for a bit. I couldn't get the second link to pull up - not sure why - but I did get to the Kids count site - thanks.

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I wonder how much of the increases are due to immigration? Our strategies to address needs may need to change to address this cultural shift.

Becky said...

How can we consider ourselves a world leader, when our own statistics sound as if they are from a third world country? Why do we focus so much relief effort overseas, when so many of our very own children are suffering right under our noses? Why should my children be well-fed and comfortable while so many are hungry and hurting?
How can a rich nation not be able to provide the assistance these kids need? This raises many questions in my mind, as you can see. Thank you for continuing to remind us and keep these issues in the forefront of our minds- that is the role of a prophet.

Larry James said...

Not sure how much immigration can explain these increases. On top of that, Hispanic infants do very, very well at birth as compared to Anglos and African Americans.

I really believe the growth of poverty among our citizens is where the increase comes most often. I also believe that we just don't want to own up to the effects of current policy on the poor. Sorry for sounding like a broken record.