The state of Texas is one of the poorest states in the country, according to a study by The Texas Association of Counties.
Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr counties are ranked among the poorest in Texas.
“When you look at the border region, like Cameron and Hidalgo County, these numbers shoot up, way up, to 40 percent of the population who is 18 years and older,” said Dr. Salvador Contreras, Economist and Associate Professor at UTRGV. “Roughly a quarter of the population who is 18 years or older lives at or below the poverty rate.”
According to a map by the TAC, up to 54.8 percent of residents in border regions, like the Rio Grande Valley, live in poverty. However, the region is still among the poorest and the poverty numbers are decreasing.
“These numbers actually, even though they look pretty bad, the poverty rates have been declining both in Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Contreras.
That’s thanks to an economic development.
According to Workforce Solutions, the Texas economy has added over 40,500 jobs last month. Over the year, the economy has added over 285,000 new positions for Texans. Many of those positions are in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We have seen an increase in jobs locally and this has led to a decline in the unemployment rate, these last few months we have seen a steady decline thankfully,” said Mike Gonzalez, communications specialist at Workforce Solutions. “We’re seeing new businesses coming up, older businesses hiring more people because they’re able to. They’re getting more work and getting more employees.”
Experts say if the economy stays steady, a positive reaction will flow throughout the Valley, in turn pushing the poverty numbers lower and lower.
“A war on poverty can be won. At least one can get closer to reducing the level of poverty and second economic growth is in fact an engine to bring about that change,” said Contreras.
The study also shows the poverty numbers have not been this low throughout Texas since 2007.