46 percent of kids at risk

Why does Houston, the land of millionaires, have so many kids in poverty? City criticized for contrast

Why does Houston, the land of millionaires, have so many kids in poverty? City criticized for contrast

In Houston, big money rolls in as quickly as the oil can be pumped and the natural gas fracked.

Contentious though it is, that industry has greatly contributed to the remarkable recovery of the city's economy, and thickened the pockets of a growing number of High Net Worth Individuals

Last July, citing data from a Capgemini study, Forbes named Houston the No. 1 fastest-growing millionaire city. In 2011 alone, the rate of millionaires escalated by 9.6 percent to a staggering 96,700 individuals (each with $1 million or more in investable assets).

 Houston is a working city, but many of those jobs don't pay well enough to support a family. 

The year before that, in 2010, the millionaires' ranks grew by 29 percent, fueled by a surge in oil prices. 

Despite this uptick in earnings, a great number of Houstonians still suffer when it comes to finances: Census data from 2010 indicates that 22.8 percent of the city's estimated 2.1 million inhabitants live below the poverty level. 

Dr. Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Houston nonprofit organization Children At Risk, reminds us that "below poverty" does not necessarily translate to "unemployed." Houston is a working city, but many of those jobs don't pay well enough to comfortably support a family. 

According to the 2010 Census, 46 percent of Houston children live at or near the federal poverty level, then defined as a family of four living on $22,050 per year. (This high level of poverty earned Houston a C grade in Workforce Solutions' 2011 Workforce Report Card.)

Sanborn acknowledges that Houston's rate is lower than Texas as a whole, which stands at 51 percent of children at or near the federal poverty level, but that the level of poverty is especially notable in Houston and in Dallas, where "super zip codes" of concentrated wealth stand in contrast to areas of concentrated poverty

"There is this juxtaposition of high child poverty, low social indicators and immense wealth," Sanborn tells CultureMap. "It would take political will and moral courage for a politician to say, 'Let's take care of our children.' "

Historically, that hasn't been the case. Sanborn laments, "Public education is the biggest thing that can drive up these social indicators, but legislators consistently cut it."

News_Downtown skyline_night2
Houston has received accolades for its quick economic recovery. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
News_income gap_sign
But that doesn't mean we're all weathy. In 2010, nearly 23 percent of the population lived in poverty — and 46 percent of Houstonian children lived at or near the poverty level. Impact Lab.net
News_graduation_graduation caps_cap toss
Many of the money issues could be solved with the great equalizer, public education — but in a time of strict budgets, funding for schools is usually the first to be cut.