Sufficient Household Resources

Families who lack sufficient household resources are more likely to face difficulties meeting basic needs like adequate shelter, nutrition, and health care. When young children experience poverty – including the chronic stress that a lack of resources creates – this can disrupt healthy brain development, affecting long-term health, academic success, and social-emotional functioning. Caregivers may also be at greater risk of experiencing toxic stress, impacting parents’ ability to provide the nurturing relationships needed for healthy development.

In Texas, far too many children and families struggle to meet their basic needs, whether that be housing, food, or basic medical care. Meanwhile, Texas has limited access to social safety-net programs that would help lift families out of poverty. Recent research shows that the social safety net – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and housing assistance, among others – play a major role in reducing child poverty. Ensuring Texas families have greater access to sufficient household resources is essential to meeting the state’s school readiness goals.

Young Children in or near Poverty

Children living in poverty or on the brink of it – where they have unmet basic needs in the areas of nutrition, housing, and health care – are at significant risk of academic challenges in the short and long term. Tragically, more than 1 in 3 Texas children under age six live in or near poverty (with a household income under 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level). For a family of four, that equates to an annual household income of less than $45,000.

The data show unacceptably high poverty rates for young Texas children of all backgrounds – Black, Hispanic, White, and others – and in all regions of the state. Due to historical and current inequities in education, housing, and other areas, Texas children of color are nearly three times as likely to live in or near poverty compared to White children, with nearly half of Black and Hispanic children under age six living in or near poverty (46.8 percent and 42.3 percent, respectively). The percentage of Texas children under age six living in or near poverty varies regionally as well, from 50% in South Texas to 22% in the Austin area.


Child Hunger

When children do not have enough food to eat, they are more likely to experience multiple challenges early in life that can have rippling effects. Food insecurity in early childhood is associated with poorer academic and behavioral outcomes in Kindergarten. Moreover, even one experience of hunger can have long-lasting effects on a child’s physical and psychological health.  

More than eight percent of households in Texas with at least one child under age six report experiencing low or very low child food security. That’s at least 1 in 12 households where young children are experiencing moderate to severe hunger – with many more children experiencing anxiety about whether they will have enough food to eat on any given day. Food insecurity exists in every Texas county and affects children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds; however, there are significant disparities in the rates of children experiencing food insecurity, often reflecting longstanding social and economic disadvantages. In Texas, Black and Hispanic children are more than three times as likely to experience hunger than White children.

SNAP Enrollment

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP, is an effective policy tool for widely addressing hunger and helping low-income families purchase healthy food. SNAP reduces the number of children who have to skip meals and is linked to improved birth outcomes, increased health care access among children, and improved child health. By promoting healthy physical development, SNAP plays a key role in ensuring that children are ready to succeed when they start school.

Across the country, about two in three people facing food insecurity likely qualify for SNAP. Yet, in Texas, the state does not provide funding for community organizations or food banks to reach out to or enroll more families. Moreover, the state has persistent challenges with staffing shortages in its public benefits eligibility system, sometimes leaving families waiting for months while the state processes their application for nutrition assistance. Amid these challenges, Texas is among the worst in the country at enrolling eligible children in SNAP. Twenty-four percent of Texas families with children who are eligible for SNAP are not receiving it; eligible Hispanic families are the most likely to miss out on SNAP benefits.

Policy Recommendations

Policymakers can ensure that families get connected to needed resources and that children and families receive the benefits for which they are eligible. Learn more about the Dashboard’s policy recommendations to enhance families’ access to sufficient household resources here.