The Texas Kids Count Project, a product of the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), released their annual State of Texas Children Report on Wednesday. The report tracks data on health, education, and poverty for kids across the state. This year, the CPPP takes a deeper look at the disparities. The report breaks down the results by race and ethnicity and identifies policy decisions that created the gaps for children of African-American and Latino descent.
“There’s no question that overtly discriminatory policies from decades ago are still limiting opportunity for children today,” said CPPP Executive Director Ann Beeson. “For example, forced racial segregation led to a lack investment in communities of color that resulted in entrenched neighborhood poverty today.”
Beeson also cites the denial of GI Bill benefits for Latino and African-American veterans.
The racial disparities have been obvious for as long as such things have been measured. Often poverty, family structure, and poor schools are often cited as the origins of these problems, as though they arise organically and inexplicably.
However, as the report points out, these highly inequitable circumstances can be directly linked to policies of the past. More disturbingly, Beeson said, when we look back in 50 years, some of our newest laws will demonstrate the same bias as those from the 1940s and ’50s.
“Unfortunately, there are laws being proposed and passed in Texas today that may appear neutral but have a discriminatory impact as shown by the research,” Beeson said. “The voter ID law is one example. Other laws are being proposed that are overtly discriminatory, like calls to exclude Syrian refugees.”
The report does propose policies to make steps toward equity. The CPPP makes a distinction between equality and equity. Equality implies an equal distribution of benefits and resources, which when applied across income and educational disparities only serve to magnify wealth, and have little effect on poverty. Underlying issues absorb resources before they have their intended effect. Equity, on the other hand, means applying the necessary resources to equalize outcomes.
Texas currently ranks 41st among the states for child wellbeing. The data in the study points to the disproportionate poverty, poor healthcare, and poor education experienced by minority children as the major culprit in this ranking. According to the report, 50% of Texas kids are Hispanic/Latino, 33% white, 11% African-American, and 6% Asian, multiracial or some other race. Due to lower birth and immigration rates of white and African-American Texans, the state child population is projected to be 61% Hispanic, 22% white, 9% black, 8% Asian, multiracial or some other race in 2050.
This means whatever gaps put minority children at a disadvantage will apply to a majority of Texas children.
The report points to several key factors to help policy makers understand how to “raise the bar” on wellbeing for Texas children.
The state’s booming metropolitan areas stand to benefit the most by closing gaps for Hispanic, African-American, and Asian populations. Because they are in the most diverse areas of the state, improved education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for minority families will improve the communities of metropolitan areas and touch a huge portion of the state’s population.
The report also connects the economic opportunity of parents to the well-being of children. CPPP recommends strengthening poverty-reduction policies, and increasing access for minority families to “opportunity-rich neighborhoods” where students can access the education, healthcare, and resources they will need to become upwardly mobile themselves.
Regarding healthcare, the data in the report points to proactive programs and policies as potential difference makers. Increasing food security and access to preventative healthcare through increased insurance coverage, especially of pregnant women, are recommended.
Funding appears to the be the most inequitable mechanism in education. While there are many factors that influence the achievement gaps, the fact that schools are funded based on an inherently unequal system means that disparities can only grow over time.
The report is full of rich, helpful data for policy makers and the voters who elect them. It is easy to read, and highly recommended for those who want to understand the issues faced by educators, health care providers, and the many others who see the effects of discriminatory policy played out over generations.
CPPP will be in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 11 to discuss the details of Bexar County’s data. The public can register for the event on the CPPP website. Spaces are still available for the breakfast briefing, but the policy workshop already has a waitlist.
Top Image: Cover illustration for the 2016 State of Texas Children Report. Image courtesy of Center for Public Policy Priorities