Austin area’s “well-being” markers improve but 2015 CAN Dashboard finds not all share the same access to opportunity

by | Nov 17, 2015

Excerpted from May 19, 2015 CAN Blog

As the Austin metro area continues its spectacular growth, it has emerged from the recession as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation with improvements on most socioeconomic fronts. But disparities by race, ethnicity, income, and geography persist, and despite a strong economy, the region faces challenges in affordability and in a growing number of people with lower incomes.

The findings are contained in the 2015 CAN Dashboard report, to be released Wednesday, May 20 at 10 a.m. in the Austin City Hall media room by the Community Advancement Network, a nonprofit coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith and economic sectors.

The CAN Dashboard provides an annual portrait of the overall socioeconomic health and well-being of Travis County and the Austin metro area. Each year, CAN partner organizations use this report to begin a conversation about how our community as a whole is doing, what collaborative efforts are helping, and what more is needed.

Overall, the 2015 CAN Dashboard describes a community working together to improve. Since 2010, 11 of the 17 socioeconomic indicators the report measures have moved in a positive direction, and five have met CAN’S community targets. However, concerning disparities exist.

“The region as a whole is prosperous, but it is time we pay closer attention to equity issues within our community,” said Erica Saenz, chair of the CAN Board of Directors and Associate Vice President in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. “Existing education, health and economic disparities based on income, race and ethnicity challenge our community. Whether we are in education, law enforcement, social services or the private sector, we all have a part to play in providing access to opportunity for all.”

According to the report, Travis County’s population grew at a much faster rate than the state and the nation from 2000 to 2013, and Austin is now the country’s eleventh largest city. But as the population has grown, so has the number of people who are low income, earning less than two times the federal poverty level. Many more people with low incomes are living in surrounding counties and in eastern Travis County. A 2015 study found Austin to be the most economically-segregated large metro area in the country.

More than one in three Travis County residents have low incomes and one in five struggle with food insecurity. People with low incomes fare poorly in CAN Dashboard socioeconomic indicators, from health to education.

The report notes disparities by race and ethnicity across many indicators, including health, basic needs, education and, most prominently, in criminal justice. African Americans, for example, are more likely to be booked into jail than other races or ethnicities.

“Collaborative efforts are making a difference,” said David Evans Chief Executive Officer of Austin Travis County Integral Care and member of CAN Board of Directors. “In the areas of health, mental health and education, collective impact is key to moving the needle forward on community indicators. We can achieve far more together, than we can as individual organizations.”

Among other key challenges cited in the CAN Dashboard: more