Texas is one of the ten worst states to be a child, according to the “Kids Count” report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. More than 1.7 million Texas kids — one in four — live in poverty. Many live in economically segregated poor neighborhoods where opportunities are scarce.
“When you look a little closer in certain neighborhoods, for certain families, they’re still pretty much in recession,” said Jennifer Lee, an analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Austin. “The recession is still alive and well for them.”
Lee acknowledged it’s true that Texas has benefited from job growth in recent years. But too many of those jobs offer only low wages and no benefits. Consequently, Texas ranks 49th among all states (Nevada is 50th) when it comes to kids having health insurance. Thirteen percent of children in Texas have no coverage.
That’s actually an improvement — it was 18 percent a few years ago. But other states have made even bigger strides, leaving Texas pretty much where it has been in the rankings for many years.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but we’re still ranked at the bottom,” Lee said.
Texas could improve that statistic by making it easier for parents to enroll their children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Lee said. Research also shows that if the parents are offered Medicaid, it’s more likely they will learn about health coverage options for their children as well, she added..
There were some bright spots in the new report. High school graduation rates have improved in Texas. Only 18 percent of high school students failed to graduate on time, down from 27 percent in 2008. Teenage pregnancies in Texas have continued to decline, in line with a nationwide decrease.