Census data help organizations aid Tarrant County communities hit by high poverty rates

Census data concerning people experiencing poverty in Tarrant County highlight the disparities among cities in the area.

According to the 2019 American Community Survey 5-year estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 241,703 (11.9%) people out of Tarrant County’s population of 2,023,452 estimated to have lived below the poverty line.

This information helps social service agencies to determine the needs of the most vulnerable and devise programs to assist them.

The national poverty rate was 10.5% and Texas’ was 13.6% in 2019. Even with Tarrant County being slightly higher than the national average, some cities were two times higher.

Rose Bradshaw, president and CEO of the North Texas Community Foundation, said reliable data on Tarrant County’s employment, education and economy is needed to guide future investment.

“Census data can help us identify the most strategic and pressing areas for intervention and enable us to track progress over time,” Bradshaw said. “The key challenge lies in turning data into actionable information that local residents and elected officials can use to tackle the issues confronting our community – and capitalize on opportunities available to us.”

The Census reported 14.5% of Fort Worth’s 858,543 residents lived below the poverty line, according to the survey estimate. Three cities in the county have residents experiencing poverty at least two times more than the national poverty rate: Forest Hill, Pelican Bay and Everman. Forest Hill, a city with the population of 12,974, had the highest poverty rate at 25.4%.

The five-year estimates are based on data collected over the period of time for the particular region.

Many agencies focusing on food insecurity, health and child care concerns use this type of data to understand the various factors that can cause a person to have a certain need and develop programs to address the problems.

Why does the poverty rate matter?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2019 national poverty rate was the lowest since estimates were published in 1959. There were 34 million people living in poverty in the country in 2019. The median household income was $68,708.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services designates the poverty guidelines each year. However, the Census uses a different way to determine who lives in poverty.

The federal agency determines poverty by using a set of income thresholds that vary by family size and composition. The poverty definition includes money before taxes, but does not include capital gains or non-cash benefits like food stamps.

The United Way for Tarrant County looks at several types of data concerning poverty including from the Census. Faye Beaulieu, the agency’s senior vice president of community investment, said it looks at free lunch program statistics and the number of people who live right above the poverty rate.

“Resources are limited,” Beaulieu said. “You need to target them where you can do the most good.”

For United Way, the number of people who live right above the poverty line is important because they are just one crisis away from needing help. The agency calls this group to be Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). They struggle to manage to have the basic needs: housing, food, transportation, child care, health care and necessary technology.

Many of these people work in the service and hospitality industry, are child care workers and caretakers. Beaulieu said many were the first ones to lose their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the United Way’s 2018 ALICE report, 25% of people in Tarrant County are only one crisis away from being in poverty. A crisis could be a big expense involving transportation, childcare or health. Beaulieu said people who are considered as ALICE have a difficult time planning for the future like college, home ownership or retirement.

Addressing food insecurity

The North Texas Community Foundation stated there are three ways poverty can be addressed in the community: pathways to opportunity, coordinated services and targeted outreach. Partnerships like Tarrant To and Through (T3) provide students with training to help in the workforce.

Organizations should consider creating customized strategies to connect those who are economically vulnerable with resources and opportunities, Taylor Snyder, strategic communications coordinator for the North Texas Community Foundation, said.

Feeding America sends a yearly report to the Tarrant Area Food Bank that includes various information detailed by zip code, including poverty data, population size and other statistics.

“It tells us how many people we need to try to support and help with food insecurity,” said Julie Butner, CEO and president of the Tarrant Area Food Bank. The food bank serves 13 counties.

The organization uses the number of people in need gathered by the report to determine the amount of food it should anticipate distributing to partners. It also helps them decide what changes need to be made in the strategic plan.

When looking at the report, the food bank learned it wasn’t serving rural areas enough. This led to its decision to create a satellite facility in Parker County.

Helping children

One in six children in the United States lived in poverty in 2018, according to The Children’s Defense Fund.

The organization stated children who experience poverty are more likely to have poor academic performance, not graduating high school and become involved in the criminal justice system.

Child Care Associates, an organization based in Fort Worth, addresses early education and childcare concerns of children of all circumstances in the area. Kara Waddell, CEO and president, said child poverty information is one of the many factors it uses to help guide services. She said there are concentrations of need for children and families in the county.

“For example, when I came to Fort Worth 7+ years ago, I pulled child poverty data along with school performance data and asked our team out loud, ‘How quickly can we be meaningfully engaged in Everman?,’” Waddell stated. “We saw the need and the opportunity to closely partner with the community and the school district… and that partnership is thriving today.”

According to the survey, Everman had a 20.4% poverty rate.

Child Care Associates has several locations and school district partnerships across the county including in the areas with higher poverty levels like Everman, Forest Hill, Fort Worth and Haltom City.

The medical community looks into data to determine how best to address health and its related concerns. Cook Children’s and Texas Health have taken the poverty rate into mind when conducting past community assessments.

When looking into community needs in 2018, The Center for Children’s Health at Cook Children’s used the County Health Rankings Model as one tool to determine the various factors that influence health needs. According to the model, created by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, social and economic factors influence a person’s health outcome by 40%.

Zip Codes with high poverty and health needs

In its 2019 report, Texas Health looked into how cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area fell into the Social-Needs Index which factors in income, poverty, unemployment, occupation, educational attainment, and linguistic problems to understand possible poor health outcomes.

According to the Texas Health report, two of the many zip codes with higher levels of need were 76119 and 76010.

The 2019 American Community Survey 5-year Estimate reported there were 50,180 people in Fort Worth, Forest Hill and Arlington who lived in 76119. The area had a poverty rate of 26.9%. The zip code had 64% living under the ALICE threshold, according to the 2018 United Way ALICE Report.

The zip code of 76010 had 58,284 people who live inside its boundaries that surrounds Arlington and Grand Prairie. The survey reported 29.3% lived in poverty. According to the 2018 United Way ALICE Report, 65% of residents lived under the ALICE threshold.

Texas Health conducted focus groups to understand more of the problems affecting residents. In 76119, there were a high number of new HIV diagnoses, problems with access to transportation due to cost and time, many cases of untreated mental health issues, and limited access to affordable housing.

It learned residents in 76010 did not know about available benefits, limited access to transportation and dental care, and had a need for affordable housing for older adults.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported on the disparities of residents living in neighborhoods that fall under the 76104 zip code. According to the 2019 Census data, the area with 17,869 residents had a poverty rate of 33.9%. In the 2018 United Way ALICE report, the agency stated that 70% were below the ALICE threshold.

To know more about the poverty rate in your city, visit: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/