For Immediate Release -- November 7, 2019 Contact: Oliver Bernstein, 512.289.8618
Laredo & Webb County Children Face Poverty, Health Challenges
New report commissioned by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and produced by Center for Public Policy Priorities highlights opportunities for investment, reform
LAREDO, Texas – While Webb County is a bustling international trading center, children are experiencing the brunt of historical and current policies that make economic mobility difficult, according to a new report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
“Far too many of Webb County’s 90,000 children are unable to reach their full potential because of policy and funding barriers," said Ann Beeson, CEO of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "Fortunately, leaders—elected, business, or community—can use this data to craft policies and practices that will break down those barriers and reduce the disparities we see today between neighborhoods, family incomes, immigration status, or race and ethnicity.”
Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty isolate residents from resources and opportunities. Children who live in income segregated areas are less likely to have economic mobility. In addition, Webb County is home to over 15,000 colonia residents, and children growing up in these colonias face unique challenges. These residential communities along the U.S.-Mexico border often lack the basic necessities for living, including potable water, sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, safe housing, etc.
“This report makes clear that more needs to be done to put children in Webb County on the same field as other Texas children when it comes to basic life needs such as clean water, health care and safe communities to live and play,” said Jaime Wesolowski, President & CEO of Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. “Looking forward, it’s important to find solutions that will take a comprehensive, whole-person care approach to ensure children across Texas have what they need to live long, happy and healthy lives.”
Key report findings:
The majority of Webb County’s children live in high-poverty neighborhoods (70 percent), while the statewide average is 17 percent. These high-poverty areas tend to have fewer public and private resources, which means Webb County children are more likely than other Texas children to attend under-resourced schools.
In Webb County, 42 percent of women age 15-44 lack health insurance. In the rest of Texas, 24 percent of women of childbearing age lack health insurance. Texas mothers who received late or no prenatal care reported that their main barriers to receiving care were the lack of insurance, not having enough money for appointments, and not being able to book an appointment.
Children’s uninsured rates have improved significantly over time, declining from nearly 27 percent in 2006 to 10.6 percent in 2016. Unfortunately, Webb County children are still more likely to be uninsured than Texas kids overall (9.7 percent).
School funding can improve equity in our schools and lead to better student outcomes. This is vital for Webb County, where most students qualify for free or reduced-price meals (86 percent).
Webb County kids under age five were three times more likely to be undercounted in the 2010 Census than young kids in the rest of the state. This affects the amount of money available to support housing, education, nutrition programs, and transportation. The 2020 Census is coming up in the spring and without focused efforts, Webb County’s kids are likely to be significantly undercounted again.
Key policy recommendations:
Promote a fair and accurate 2020 Census. Leaders should form Complete Count Committees throughout Texas cities or counties and at the statewide level to ensure that everyone in Texas is counted.
Implement policies to ensure sufficient wages and benefits. Texas workers need access to family-sustaining wages and quality job benefits to build a strong future for their children. Raising the statewide or local minimum wage and increasing access to paid sick leave can improve the economic security of Texas families.
Protect and expand comprehensive and affordable health insurance coverage. Expanding access to health insurance coverage to more Texans can improve maternal health, detect and treat illness earlier, and reduce the uninsured rate for children.
Ensure the Texas school finance system funds Texas schools at a level that meets the needs of all students. Texas’ school finance system should mitigate inequities created by vast differences in property wealth between school districts. A provision in the new school finance reform law allows school districts to reduce individual tax rates. It is a departure from the long-held principal that all districts should have access to similar revenue at similar tax rates. This provision should be repealed in order to preserve equity.
State of Texas Children 2019: Child Well-Being in Webb County is part of the State of Texas Children report series of the Kids Count project. Visit the Kids Count Data Center for extensive, in-depth child well- being data for each of Texas’ 254 counties and the seven largest metropolitan areas. This research was commissioned and funded by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Center for Public Policy Priorities 7020 Easy Wind Drive, Suite 200 | Austin, Texas 78752 512-823-2875 | email@example.com