New Equity Analysis: Not everyone benefits from Austin’s economic growth and success
The 2016 CAN Dashboard finds that, despite Austin’s recovery from the Great Recession, not all people share the same access to opportunity
**Watch a livestream of the press conference with Mayor Steve Adler at 9:00 a.m. CT June 2nd.**
June 1, 2016
The Austin metro area has emerged from the recession as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation with community-wide improvements on many socioeconomic fronts. However, disparities by race, ethnicity, income and geography continue, and despite a strong economy, the region faces many persistent challenges that must be addressed to build a community of equity and opportunity.
This year’s CAN Dashboard report highlights many positive social, health, educational and economic trends. Since 2010, nine of the 17 socioeconomic indicators the report measures are on track to meet the community’s target. For example, Travis County’s combined property and violent crime rate continued to decline, dropping by 25% from 2010 to 2014, far exceeding the community goal of an annual 1% reduction in crime. Another positive trend is the increased rate of health coverage for individuals throughout Central Texas. In Travis County, the percent of people under the age of 65 who lack health insurance decreased from 22% in 2010 to 18% in 2014, meaning greater access to care, expanded coverage and more choices for members of our community. Finally, the annual unemployment rate hit an unprecedented low of 3.2% in 2015.
Unfortunately, this year’s report also shows some critical indicators moving in the wrong direction. The poverty rate in Travis County appears to have increased in 2014 for the first time since 2010. Though sample sizes are too small to be conclusive, this is a trend to watch. There was also a significant decline in the percentage of Central Texas kindergarten students who were school ready. While more than half of kindergarteners met this measure of social/emotional, language, early literacy, and mathematic ability in 2014, only 41% were school ready in 2015. And while more students are graduating from high school, the percent who earn a post-secondary degree remains unchanged. This is a critical indicator given the qualifications for the types of jobs that are difficult to fill in our region.
“Individuals who do not continue past high school are finding it increasingly difficult to succeed in Austin’s economy,” said Jeremy Martin, 2016 CAN Board Chair and Senior Vice President of Strategy for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. “It is critical that we prepare students for jobs of the future. We need to make sure students are equipped with the education, training and skills needed to not only pursue, but complete post-secondary certifications and degrees.”
The seventh annual CAN Dashboard report and www.CANcommunitydashboard.org, provide an overview of the social, health, educational and economic well-being of Travis County and the greater Austin area. The report charts progress by tracking 17 indicators to gauge whether we are getting closer to achieving our community vision of promoting equity and opportunity for all, by answering four questions: Are we safe, just & engaged? Are we meeting our basic needs? Are we healthy? Are we achieving our full potential? Unfortunately, for many Central Texas residents, the answer to these questions is “no.” For this reason, this year’s report includes a new Equity Analysis to highlight disparities by race, ethnicity and income across many indicators.
“The new equity section of the CAN Dashboard allows CAN to present a more comprehensive picture of equity and opportunity for Austin and Travis County by diving more deeply into disparities in the outcomes and experiences of low income families and people of color in our community,” said Raul Alvarez, Executive Director, Community Advancement Network. “Until our income, health and educational success are not predicted by the color of our skin or the neighborhood we live in, there is much work to be done.”
Please join us for the release of the 7th Annual Dashboard Report on Thursday, June 2nd at 9 a.m. in the Austin City Hall Media Room. For more information, visit www.CANcommunitydashboard.org, or contact CAN’s Executive Director, Raul Alvarez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-785-0492.
Highlights from the 2016 CAN Dashboard Report –
To Be Released June 2nd
May 27, 2016
The rollout of the 2016 CAN Dashboard continues, and before we release the full report on Thursday, June 2nd at City Hall, I’d like to take a moment to go over a few community-wide improvements and key challenges highlighted in this years’ report and its companion website www.CANcommunitydashboard.org.
The CAN Dashboard tracks 17 indicators to assess the social, health, educational and economic well-being of Travis County and the greater Austin area by analyzing five-year data trends. The good news, many of these indicators are improving. This came as no surprise to CAN’s researchers and the Dashboard Steering Committee, considering the latest data available for most of our indicators is from 2014, five years after Austin was still reeling from the pain of the Great Recession.
- Travis County’s combined property and violent crime rate continues to decline, dropping by 10% from 2013 to 2014 alone, far exceeding the community goal of a 1% reduction in crime. Over the past five years the combined crime rate declined by 25%.
- The percent of people under the age of 65 who have no health insurance has decreased from 22% in 2010 to 18% to 2014. Much of this improvement can be attributed to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as local collaborative efforts focused on increasing health coverage and expanding access to care.
- Travis County’s annual unemployment rate fell to a historic low of 3.2% in 2015. This is lower than the state rate of 4.3% and the national rate of 5.3%.
Despite improvements for some indicators, Central Texas continues to struggle with many persistent community-wide challenges. For instance:
- The percentage of households that are housing cost-burdened increased for the first time since 2010. Over a third of households are cost-burdened, paying more than 30% of their total income for housing. Renters are more than twice as likely as homeowners to be cost-burdened. Eighty-six percent of renter households earning less than $35,000 a year are housing cost-burdened.
- The number of people identified as homeless on a given day in Travis County increased for the first time in several years.
- For the first time in five years, the percentage of kindergarteners who were school ready declined significantly.
The CAN Dashboard provides a snapshot of community-wide conditions and highlights areas where we, as a community, should focus our efforts to improve the quality of life for all. As I mentioned in my blog post last week, this year’s dashboard includes a new Equity Analysis that highlights disparities by race, ethnicity and income. Assessing the data through an equity lens helps ensure that we have a more complete picture of community needs and challenges. This information can help spur local conversations and help provide a foundation for data-driven decisions. The data also serves as a vehicle for launching important conversations about whether we are moving closer to our shared vision for all people.
CAN is excited to release the next edition of the CAN Dashboard. A press announcement will be released on Tuesday, May 31st, and the full report will be distributed Thursday, June 2nd at CAN’s annual Press Conference at 9 a.m. at Austin City Hall (301 W. 2nd St., Austin, Texas). There is much to be done, and I look forward to working with the CAN Board, CAN Community Council, individuals and organizations, to help build a community of equity and opportunity.
- Raul Alvarez, Executive Director, Community Advancement Network
Equity and Opportunity: Our Biggest Challenges
A message from the Director on drafting the seventh annual CAN Dashboard, and a preview of this year’s new Equity Analysis.
May 17, 2016
It’s coming! On Thursday, June 2nd, the Community Advancement Network (CAN) will release the seventh annual CAN Dashboard to provide an overview of the social, health, educational and economic well-being of Travis County and the greater Austin area. As CAN’s new Executive Director, I’ve really enjoyed working with both the CAN team and the Dashboard Steering Committee to prepare the 2016 annual report. The experience has been eye opening and inspiring, we live in a community full of passionate individuals who share our commitment to research and data, and understand the value of tracking population-wide measures that indicate whether we are moving toward our shared Community Vision.
While the goal of the Dashboard Report and companion website has always been to highlight data trends and generate conversation around the ways we can work together to meet our community goals, this year we decided to add a new Equity Analysis to dive more deeply into disparities in outcomes and experiences of low income families and people of color in our community.
For many Central Texas residents, it is no secret that Austin faces persistent challenges when it comes to equity and opportunity. Just last year: the Martin Prosperity Institute named Austin as the nation’s most economically segregated city; The Equality of Opportunity Project found Travis County to be one of the worst counties in the nation in helping poor children up the income ladder; and research from the Brookings Institute highlighted an unsettling trend - concentrated poverty is increasing in our city. Why does this matter? The Brookings Institute found that people who live in areas of concentrated poverty, whether they are poor or not, tend to face higher crime rates, poorer physical and mental health outcomes, poorer educational outcomes and weaker job-seeking networks. According to this report, “These challenges disproportionately fall to people of color, and, while they have long been particularly pronounced in inner cities, as poverty has spread beyond the urban core, so too has concentrated disadvantage.”
While the CAN Dashboard has typically examined differences in outcomes for people of different races and ethnicities and low income families in the indicator by indicator analyses, we felt that the differences in outcomes would be more effectively addressed in a stand-alone section relating to equity. This new Equity Analysis allows CAN to present a more comprehensive picture of equity and opportunity for Austin/Travis County. Some of the trends noted in this section include:
- Public safety: Disproportionality in jail bookings remains a challenge, as Blacks are much more likely than Whites and Hispanic to be booked into Travis County jail.
- Poverty: The Hispanic (27%) and Black (22%) poverty rates are more than double the White (9%) poverty rate in Travis County.
- Health: Blacks have the highest rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, while the Hispanic population has the highest rates of uninsured residents.
- Education: One-half of Central Texas high school graduates earn a post-secondary credential within six years of enrolling in a Texas college or university. Only 33% of Black students and 35% of Hispanic students earn a post-secondary credential within this six-year period.
CAN will release key findings from this year’s report and a press announcement on May 24th, the full report will be distributed Thursday, June 2nd at CAN’s annual Press Conference at City Hall. There is much work to be done. We look forward to being a part of collaborative efforts across the community to move the needle on some of our most persistent challenges.
- Raul Alvarez, Executive Director, Community Advancement Network
A diverse group of people who come together to learn about and address civic challenges
Now accepting new member applications for the 2016 Community Council – Sept. 15th Deadline
August 17, 2015
Interested in learning more about your community and assisting in collaborative efforts to address our region’s greatest needs? Apply today to join the CAN Community Council!
The CAN Community Council is a self-appointed board comprised of up to 30 individuals who reflect the diversity of interests, concerns, organizations, issues, and populations of the Central Texas community. The role of the Community Council is to provide a link between the community at large and the policy makers and elected officials who serve on the CAN Board of Directors.
Here is what CAN Community Council Vice Chair, Eileen Schrandt, has to say about her experience:
When I applied to be a member of the CAN Community Council in September of 2011, I was excited for the opportunity, and thankful that Austin had such an amazing organization to convene and connect stakeholders interested in working together to strategize best practices for improvements in our community. From housing to healthcare to graduation rates and voter turnout, CAN was the organization that always seemed to be talking about the topics that I was interested in, and that were relevant to my work. I wanted to be a part of it!
|Community Council leaders: Eileen Schrandt, Vice Chair; Anne Harutunian, Chair; Kirsha Haverlah, Past-Chair|
I’m happy to say that I was selected for the Council in 2012, and in my fourth year I am serving as the Vice Chair of the group – and participation has definitely met my expectations. I get excited to go to CAN Community Council meetings because I always feel re-invigorated – learning about the amazing work community organizations are doing in Austin and regionally. Each meeting I have an “a-ha” moment where the wheels start turning, and I think about how different organizations might be able to work together and leverage resources to fill a gap and serve a group in need. I am also intrigued by the questions my peers ask, how they differ than mine, and how they uncover nuggets of information that help to build a framework for options and solutions. Finally, I get excited when I see community members and guests attend our Community Council meetings to learn more about CAN, our community, and its resources, and how they might get involved to move Austin forward as a place where we can all achieve our potential.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken something I’ve learned at a CAN Community Council meeting, and used it to form a partnership for the organization I work for, or have shared it with someone else to do the same. CAN has been ever-present in my line of work since I moved to Austin in March 2007 to join the Housing Authority of the City of Austin (HACA). As HACA’s Grants Manager at the time, I used CAN reports and research to support many of my proposals, and when the Community Dashboard was released in 2010 I did the same. I attended special CAN meetings to learn more about the regional strengths and challenges that affect the lives of all Central Texas residents. I sincerely look forward to serving as the Chair of the CAN Community Council in 2016.
The CAN Community Council generally meets on the third Monday of every month from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. The meeting agenda focuses on important issues facing our community. Over the past two years, the Community Council has focused on specific issues facing vulnerable populations, including children and youth, veterans, people who have been previously incarcerated, persons with disabilities, the elderly and aging population, and African American, Asian, and Hispanic populations. Building on what was learned in 2014, the Community Council is diving deeper into how organizations promote a person-centered approach to serving people in our community. The Community Council’s work will culminate in a forum for community leaders, service providers, funders, and policy makers, this October to discuss the importance of emphasizing and providing person-centered care in our community.
If you’re interested in joining this group of motivated individuals to enhance collaboration and raise community awareness about important information and needs, please consider applying to join the CAN Community Council. Applications will be accepted online through September 15th and can be accessed at: canatx.org/CAN-Councils/Community_Council/Application/member_app.php. If you have any questions, please contact CAN Program Coordinator, Hannah Brown, at Hannah.email@example.com.
Language Needs in the Greater Austin Area
Overview of Language Needs
July 22, 2015
As Austin grows its global connections, the diversity of languages spoken in the area has grown as well. Just under one-third of residents of the five-county Greater Austin Area (28%) speak a language other than English at home and 11% speak English less than “very well”, according to 5-year American Community Survey data. In 22% of Spanish-speaking households and 21% of households speaking Asian languages, no one over the age of 14 speaks English very well. Since 2000, the number of residents, over the age of 5, who speak English less than “very well” has grown by 48%, compared to 43% growth in the total population over 5 years old. The most common languages spoken among non-English speakers in the Austin area are: Spanish (150,230 people), Vietnamese (7,546 people), Chinese languages (5,018 people), Korean (2,478 people), and ‘Other Asian Languages’ (1,605 people). Another 45,750 people have a hearing difficulty.
Map produced by CAN from U.S. Census Bureau data
|The red and orange portions of the above map show areas of our community with high concentrations of households in which no member speaks English very well.|
Gauging Local Needs
Given the growth among non-English speakers in our area, CAN distributed a survey to gather more information about the ways local public agencies and organizations are responding to the needs of this population. CAN distributed a survey over its listserv and through partner networks, targeted towards workers at public and non-profit agencies. The survey, open from January 21st to February 23rd, received 121 responses, with about an even split of responses from frontline staff, managers of frontline staff, and Executive Directors or other members of an organization’s senior leadership team. About 2/3 of survey respondents answered on behalf of a unit within a larger organization. Most respondents indicated that they worked for a government or school district (49%) or large non-profit organization (23%). Respondents reported working in a variety of sectors, including basic needs (33%), healthcare (31%), community development (21%), pre-k through college education (16%), and criminal justice (14%). (Note that survey-takers were able to choose more than one response for these categories).
As shown in the graph, most respondents reported that some, though a small share of, their clients require interpretation and translation services. 60% of respondents indicated that 25% or less (but more than 0%) of their clients require these types of services. Nearly all respondents (96%) reported that Spanish is spoken among clients. Vietnamese was the next most commonly reported language spoken, followed by American Sign Language, Chinese Languages, and Arabic.
Most respondents reported that they provide language services in-house, with translators and interpreters whose primary organizational role is something other than interpreter or translator. Another 60% contract with outside organizations or individuals. 28% of respondents indicated that they utilize friends or family of clients to interpret or translate. (Note that respondents were able to select more than one method). 62% reported that their organization has not conducted a formal language assessment. When recruiting new staff members, 55% reported that bi-lingual ability is a hiring preference in their organization, and 46% of respondents who use in-house translators or interpreters reported that their organization pays an additional stipend to these employees.
Survey takers also discussed challenges when providing language services. 55% of respondents said their organization meets the needs of limited English proficient clients most of the time, although 41% said their organization sometimes misses out on clients due to an inability to provide language services. 70% believe their organization meets the needs of Spanish speakers, but, of these respondents, 65% struggle to meet the needs of people who speak languages that are less commonly spoken in the Austin area. A number of barriers may prevent organizations from consistently providing language services. 74% cited cost as a barrier to providing language services and 57% indicated that their organization lacks the knowledge necessary to evaluate the qualifications of interpreters and translators.
A large majority of survey-takers (93%) expressed an interest in collaborating to improve language access services, with the highest level of support expressed for sharing lists of contracted interpreters/translators (64% very or extremely interested), sharing lists of volunteer interpreters/translators (64% very or extremely interested), and creating a database of commonly-used forms (50% very or extremely interested).
To share results, CAN held a Language Access Forum on March 24th. At the forum, Esther Diaz, a local translator and interpreter trainer, provided an overview of laws related to language services, as well as professional standards for translators and interpreters. She highlighted the importance of using trained, qualified interpreters and translators by sharing the story of a mis-translated word that resulted in a $71 million lawsuit for a Florida hospital. Laura DeGrush, from Caritas of Austin, gave an overview of refugees in the Austin area and shared Caritas’ strategies for meeting the language needs of these clients. Douglas Matthews, the City of Austin’s Chief Communications Officer, shared the City’s language policy and discussed the importance of providing translation and interpretation services.
For more information on the survey and forum, see the presentation here.
Following the Language Forum, CAN created a Language Access Google Group for language stakeholders. Join the group to share resources, ideas, and challenges and learn from others in the Austin area. All of the presentations shared at the forum are also available on through the Google Group. Local and national agencies and organizations provide a number of resources for providing interpretation and translation services. The federal LEP.gov website provides a wide range of guidance for providing interpretation and translation to clients and customers, particularly for organizations receiving funding from the federal government. The national Migration Policy Institute has devoted a section of its site to providing resources and best practices from public agencies across the country. The site includes information on topics ranging from creating multi-lingual websites to training and testing volunteer interpreters and translators. King County, Washington has developed extensive language access policies. The County’s website provides examples of language plans, including assessments of languages spoken and standards for contracting for language services. Nationally, the American Translators Association provides a directory of its member translators. Its local affiliate, the Austin Area Interpreters and Translators Association, maintains a directory of local translators and interpreters. The Texas Chapter of the International Medical Interpreters Association provides a number of resources for this specialization.
For more information on the survey and forum, see the presentation here.
Report: Austin area’s “well-being” markers improve
But 2015 CAN Dashboard finds not all share the same access to opportunity
May 19, 2015
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:
A strong local economy has led to low unemployment levels, well below the nation as a whole, but the top five occupations pay $31,000 or less per year.
More than a third of Travis County households are housing “cost-burdened,” meaning that more than 30 percent of monthly income is needed for rent, mortgage payments and utilities. And though we are a healthy community overall, one-fifth of residents lack health insurance, and many people struggle with obesity and poor mental health.
High school graduation and college readiness rates have improved, but only 30 percent of Central Texas high school graduates completed a post-secondary credential within six years. Low-income graduates fare considerably worse; only 13 percent achieved this distinction.
The CAN Dashboard highlights demographic trends and gauges 17 socioeconomic indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.
Local educational outcomes improving, but racial and income disparities persist
CAN Community Dashboard highlights community efforts to help more people achieve their full potential
May 13, 2015
AUSTIN -- Nearly 90 percent of Central Texas students graduated from high school in four years in 2013, but only 30 percent of graduates earned a post-secondary credential within six years, according to the 2015 CAN Community Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well-being.
On-time high school graduation has a positive effect on future employment and earnings, and a post-secondary degree or credential is critical to success in the Austin-area’s economy. According to the CAN Dashboard, only 13 percent of low-income high school graduates complete college within 6 years, compared to 39 percent of their higher income peers.
Among improvements on the educational front, more students are graduating from high school “college ready” than ever before. Students who achieve this state standard do not have to take non-credit remedial courses in college before taking full credit courses. The E3 Alliance, a regional education collaborative based in Austin, reports that 62 percent of graduating students in Central Texas met college readiness standards in 2013, compared to only 43 percent of graduates in the class of 2007. High school graduation rates are increasing as well, but gaps by race, ethnicity and income, while gradually closing, still remain.
Del Valle ISD has made significant improvements in college readiness rates among students within the district, with 51 percent of graduating seniors meeting the college ready standards in 2013, a substantial increase from the 9 percent of students who graduated college ready in the Class of 2006. The high school graduation rate was 90 percent in the Del Valle district, a notable achievement considering 86 percent of its 11,611 students are economically disadvantaged and one-third are English language learners.
“Del Valle ISD is committed to continuous improvement and success for our students, as evidenced in the huge increase in college readiness rates,” said Kelly Crook, Del Valle ISD Superintendent and member of CAN Board of Directors. “We have more work to do, and our teachers and staff, together with our board of trustees, are working hard every day to increase college readiness and overall educational outcomes for our students together with their families.”
The Community Advancement Network (CAN), a nonprofit coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith and economic sectors, tracks four broad community goals over time to identify where attention and action are needed. The fourth goal of the CAN Dashboard, “We achieve our full potential,” measures kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, college success, and unemployment. The most recent data for these indicators are available in the online Dashboard.
According to the CAN Dashboard, a number of community partners are working on many fronts to improve educational outcomes from kindergarten through college and to employment in Central Texas. Currently, one-third of all Central Texas students who enroll in college within a year of high school graduation, do so at Austin Community College.
“ACC is always looking for ways to redesign curriculum, boost student engagement, and innovate what happens in and out of the classroom,” said Dr. Mary Hensley, Executive Vice President of ACC and a member of the CAN Board of Directors. “The new Highland Campus features the ACCelerator, a massive, high-tech computer lab that’s helping students learn more effectively and reach their goals faster. The campus also provides a full range of support programs to guide students from admission to completion.”
According to CAN Dashboard data from the E3 Alliance, just over half of Travis County children entering kindergarten in 2014 were “school ready,” an important indicator of later academic success. Children who are low-income are less likely than other children to meet “school ready” standards. Participation in pre-kindergarten programs can help close that gap. In their 2014 study, E3 found that 55% of students who attended a pre-kindergarten program, regardless of income level, were school ready
Additionally, over 30 organizations, led by United Way for Greater Austin’s Success by 6 initiative, joined forces to create the School Readiness Action Plan. Goals of the plan include: supporting families to help them support their children, increasing access to high quality early education and care, promoting preventive health and mental health services, and fostering public and private partnerships to promote school readiness.
Finally, the CAN Dashboard reports that unemployment rates for Travis County are lower than state and national rates and continue to decline. However, the five occupations with the highest number of workers in the Austin metro area pay a median wage of $31,000 per year or less.
CAN will release the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report on May 20th at a press conference at Austin City Hall. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.
More Travis County residents have health insurance as partners work to improve enrollment and access to care
CAN Community Dashboard Report also tracks mental health, smoking, obesity and air quality
May 5, 2015
AUSTIN -- The percentage of people who lack health insurance in Travis County continues to fall as a wide network of community partners work to increase insurance enrollment and improve access to health care, according to the 2015 CAN Community Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well-being.
According to the CAN Dashboard, 20 percent of Travis County residents under age 65 lacked health insurance in 2013, down from more than 24 percent in 2009. Travis County’s uninsured rate was lower than the rate for the state of Texas, but higher than the national average.
Figures are based on 2013 census data, the most recent available. Health insurance rates are expected to improve in 2014 and 2015, with the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Central Health, which works to deliver health care to the underserved and uninsured in Travis County, estimates that 101,000 people selected health care plans during the second year of ACA enrollment.
“This is a 57 percent increase in marketplace enrollment over 2014. We continue to work together using every tool at our disposal to improve health equity by increasing prevention and access to health care coverage for low-income residents in the hope that we can prevent chronic disease and build a model healthy community,” said Christie Garbe, Central Health’s Chief Strategy Officer and member of CAN Board of Directors.
A number of community efforts are focused on increasing access to care, so those with insurance can get the health care they need, when they need it. State-wide 1115 waivers have enabled our community to try creative new ways to deliver health and behavioral health services. One example includes a 5-year demonstration project, led by Central Health, which will work to transform the healthcare delivery system to provide services that are person-centered, coordinated, and better quality at lower costs.
"Thanks to the 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver, along with additional investments and partnerships, we are implementing new, community-based programs that address Travis County’s diverse behavioral health needs—including improved crisis services, jail diversion, and integrated care in schools," said David Evans, CEO of Integral Care and member of CAN Board of Directors, "These programs have already yielded many significant positive impacts that data will reflect over time."
Addressing mental health is a critical issue for our community. About 1 in 5 Travis County adults reported poor mental health in 2013, a rate that appears to have increased slightly from 2011. The percentage of Texans experiencing poor mental health declined during that same period. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to experience poor mental health in Travis County. In 2013, 32% of people between 18 and 29 experienced poor mental health. People with disabilities are also more likely than those without a disability to experience poor mental health, with 38% reporting poor mental health.
A number of local collaborative projects are working to address behavioral health needs in the Austin area. The Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department opened in 2014 to provide specialized emergency services to meet the needs of people in crisis. Austin Travis County Integral Care and local partners developed the Travis County Children’s Mental Health Plan to improve the wellness of children and youth.
The Community Advancement Network (CAN), a coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith, and economic sectors, tracks four broad community goals over time to identify where attention and action are needed. In addition to health insurance coverage and mental health, the third goal of the CAN Dashboard, “we are healthy,” also measures smoking, obesity, and air quality. The most recent data for these indicators are available online at CANCommunityDashboard.org.
CAN will release the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report on May 20. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.
Many in Travis County struggle with low incomes, housing costs, access to food
CAN Community Dashboard tracks how well our basic needs are met
April 27, 2015
AUSTIN -- When it comes to meeting their basic needs, Travis County residents overall have recovered from the recession, according to the CAN Community Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well-being. But troubling disparities remain as many struggle to make ends meet, pay for housing, and gain access to nutritional food.
Even though the percentage of people who are low-income in Travis County has declined since 2010, the number of people who are low-income has increased, due to the area’s fast overall population growth. About one of every three Travis County residents are low-income, or earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2013, this was equivalent to $47,248 for a family of four.
“This is about the people who are the working class, that work in the city to keep the city running, and cannot afford to live in the city,” said Ora Houston, Austin City Council Member and a member of the CAN Board of Directors. “These are people who have paid property taxes for years, with little to no services, and are now being priced out of their homes.”
CAN tracks four broad community goals over time to identify where attention and action are needed. The second goal of the CAN Community Dashboard, “Our basic needs are met,” measures housing cost-burdened, food insecurity, low-income, vehicle miles traveled and homelessness. The most recent data for these indicators is now available in the online dashboard, and additional key findings are listed below.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers people to be “cost-burdened” if they pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing and utilities. In Travis County, 36 percent of all households are housing cost-burdened, a percentage that is higher than both the state and national rates. Travis County ties with Dallas County as having the highest housing cost burdened rate among Texas urban counties. Renters are almost twice as likely as homeowners to be housing cost-burdened.
“Many people seeking housing affordability are moving east into unincorporated areas of Travis County,” said Margaret Gomez, Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 4 and a member of the CAN Board of Directors. “But an affordable home is only one piece of the puzzle. Families also need transportation, grocery stores, health care and other services. That is why it is more important than ever for us to work together, across jurisdictions to make sure the needs of all people are met.”
The Capital Area Council of Governance Housing Opportunity Report estimates that 290,000 residents of outlying counties regularly commute into Travis County for work. This is because 90 percent of all jobs in the five-county Austin metro area are in Williamson and Travis counties.
"To help our neighbors get to good-paying jobs, we all need to work together to improve our transportation system," says Jeremy Martin, CAN Chair-Elect and Senior Vice President of the Austin Chamber of Commerce. "These strategies to reduce our region's traffic include expanding capacity, increase our use of telecommuting and transit, and improve land use so people can work close to where they live."
On May 20 the Community Advancement Network, a nonprofit coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith and economic sectors, will release the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.
Disproportionality in jail bookings, school discipline, and homelessness
CAN Dashboard tracks whether we are safe, just and engaged
April 20, 2015
AUSTIN -- African Americans in Travis County are disproportionally booked into jail, more subject to discipline in schools, and more prone to experience homelessness, according to the CAN Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well being.
According to the CAN Dashboard, African Americans in Travis County are 3.4 times more likely than whites, and 2.2 times more likely than Hispanics to be booked into jail. While African Americans represent eight percent of the total county population, they account for about 21 percent of overall jail bookings.
CAN tracks four broad community goals over time to help identify where attention and action are needed. The first, safe, just and engaged,” measures levels of crime, proportionality of jail bookings, and voting. Findings of high disproportionality in Travis County are outlined in this section of the online Dashboard, which is now live for public review. The CAN Dashboard reports that African Americans are also over-represented in a number of local systems which may influence contact with the criminal justice system, including school discipline, child welfare, and homelessness.
Roger Jefferies, the County Executive for Travis County Justice Planning, served on the committee that chose the proportionality of jail bookings indicator when the CAN Dashboard was created seven years ago. "We were seeking an indicator to measure whether we are a 'just' community,” Jefferies said. “This indicator, like all the other indicators on the CAN Dashboard, cannot be addressed by any one agency or organization alone. It will require work across all areas of our community." Travis County Justice Planning recently applied for a MacArthur Foundation Safety + Justice Challenge Grant. "If approved, this grant will provide resources and expertise to take a closer look at how jails are used in our community and how we can address disproportionate jail use among low-income people and communities of color," Jefferies said.
“This indicator gets to the heart of what CAN is about -- equity and opportunity,” said Erica Saenz, chair of the CAN Board of Directors and Associate Vice President of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas. Saenz chaired a CAN Work Group that developed an on-line toolkit to connect local organizations with resources to improve cultural competence, diversity, and inclusion. This spring, CAN is hosting a series of training workshops for system leaders on how to create culturally competent, diverse and inclusive organizations. “There is something each of us can do to promote equity. Whether we are in law enforcement, education, social services or business, we all have a part to play.”
Other indicators tracked in the “We are safe, just & engaged” section of the CAN Dashboard include local crime rates and voting participation. One target the community has consistently met since 2009, is an annual one percent reduction in the overall crime rate. Travis County also has the lowest violent crime rate among the six largest urban counties in Texas.
The report’s conclusions about voting are mixed. In Travis County, 2014 voter turnout was about 37 percent, virtually unchanged from the 2010 gubernatorial election. However, Austin saw a 250 percent increase in votes cast in the Austin Mayoral and City Council races from the May 2012 elections. This is likely the result of two factors: for the first time, Austin voters elected their council members from single-member districts, and local elections were moved from May to November.
On May 20, the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report will be released by the Community Advancement Network, or CAN, a nonprofit coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith and economic sectors. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.