High Poverty, Low Welfare Use in Texas

October 27, 2011 | Texas Watchdog |  Link to article

Texas has one of the highest poverty rates and one of the lowest rates of public assistance use in the country, according to two briefs by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas, which ranked 9th in poverty and 45th in welfare use, is among several states - Alabama and Arkansas are two others - where poverty is much higher and public assistance much lower than the national average, a story about the reports by Stateline today says.

And while that might make taxpayers smile, the numbers have social welfare advocates wringing their hands raw. The findings might indicate there is less real need for public assistance, or it might mean those states are doing a bad job reaching the people who need government help, Elizabeth Lower-Basch with the Center for Law and Social Policy told Stateline.

Nationwide, 46.2 million Americans, 15.3 percent of the population, lived below the poverty level while 3.3 million people or 2.9 percent of the population took welfare in 2010, according to the census data.

Mississippi had the highest poverty rate, 22.4 percent, followed by New Mexico, Alabama, Kentucky and Arkansas. Texas' poverty rate is 17.9 percent. Louisiana had the lowest welfare use, 1.4 percent, followed by Alabama, Wyoming, Arkansas, and South Carolina, then Texas tied with Georgia and Virginia at 1.9 percent.

Oddly, Alaska was tied for the second lowest poverty rate in the country at 9.9 percent, but had by far the highest welfare use at 6.7 percent. Maine, Vermont, Washington and Michigan were the others with the highest use of assistance.  

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