Low-income families on rise in Travis county

Allie Kolechta

A disproportionate rise in the number of low-income families in Travis county could mean less support for food and housing services and less tax revenue for future residents of the city of Austin, according to a report from the Community Action Network.

The Community Dashboard is a yearly report from the network, which works to improve the health, economic status and educational and social aspects of communities in Travis County. While the total population of Travis County rose 26 percent to 1,026,158 from 1999-2009, the low-income population in the county grew 56 percent to 352,398 in the same period, according to the report.

The report works to let the community know what needs improvement, said Vanessa Sarria, executive director of the network.

Sarria said the results of the report were mixed. High school graduation rates in Austin are increasing and unemployment rates are decreasing, while the low-income population has increased from 32 percent to 35 percent in the past year.

The report considers factors such as high school graduation rates, college readiness and mental health.

“The low-income population is worse off on our dashboard in most of the factors we looked at,” she said. “These things are very critical for us to consider because it’s hard for people to support their families when they’re having all of these other problems.”

A high percentage of low-income families could greatly affect the county’s tax revenue, which is critical to future generations, Sarria said.

“What’s critical to know is that our futures are linked together,” she said. “The future of this growing low-income population is linked to the prosperity of the rest of the community, and promoting equity for people to enhance their skills and ensuring the affordability of the cost of living will be better for everyone in the long run.”

Low-income families typically spend all of their money paying housing, childcare and gas costs, so they do not purchase as many goods and pay sales tax or buy houses and pay property taxes, she said.

Because of this, low-income families typically do not pay taxes and do not contribute to the tax base, said Calvin Johnson, a professor in the School of Law.