More than half of Texas’ poor children live in families where 50 percent or more of household income goes to housing, leaving little money left for necessities such as healthcare, a new national study shows.
That lack of affordable housing carries a ripple effect that can also lead to a lack of healthy food, an inability to fill prescriptions or seek medical care, transportation problems and it influences where children go to school, which can ultimately determine their success as adults, researchers concluded.
“Where we live matters to our health, ” said Joe Hinton, a researcher with the 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, an annual project that looks at health and demographic indicators at the county level across the United States. “All people don’t have the same opportunities for a long and healthy life.”
In Harris County, for instance, 23 percent of the county’s children live in poverty — more than triple the rate in Denton County. The overall child poverty rate in Texas is 21 percent.
The study also shows that one in five households in Harris County face “severe housing problems,” which could include high costs, overcrowding or even a lack of plumbing or functional kitchen.
Compare that to nearby Fort Bend County, which reported 14 percent of households experienced such housing problems.
Statewide there is a deep divide when it comes to race and housing. Overall, the 20 percent of black households who face severe housing problems is double that of white households.
The study, released Tuesday, is a collaborative effort between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It uses the most recent available data from a range of sources, much coming from last year.
While Texas is often thought to be immune from the affordable housing crisis typically associated with California or New York, the data from Texas counties are eye-opening and should be studied further, Hinton said.
A wide range of indicators were broken down county-by-county, including life expectancy, birth weight, number of days with poor physical or mental health, level of education, sleep deprivation, access to healthy food, firearm fatalities and even length of commute.
According to the 2019 ranking, the healthiest county in Texas is Hartley, followed by Denton, Williamson, Collin, and Fort Bend counties. The least healthy county, although not all counties reported, is San Augustine followed by Duval, Morris, Hall and Marion counties.
“”It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing, ” said Dr. Richard Besser, chief executive of Robert Wood Johnson, in a statement.”We are all healthier and stronger together when everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money they make.”