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Income inequality in Waco: A closer look

The gap between wealthy and poor Americans has widened steadily over the last several decades, with the top 1% of earners controlling a disproportionate amount of wealth. Waco, TX is no exception to this trend, as the city has experienced rising income inequality during this time.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Waco was $49,952 in 2021, which is significantly lower than the national median household income of $69,717. In addition, 20.4% of Waco residents live below the poverty line, compared to the national poverty rate of 12.8%. These statistics indicate that a significant portion of the population in Waco is struggling financially, with limited access to resources and opportunities.

One factor contributing to income inequality in Waco is the concentration of poverty in certain neighborhoods. For example, some East Waco neighborhoods have a poverty rate of more than 50%, which is significantly higher than the poverty rate in other parts of the city, such as areas of western Waco, where poverty rates can be below 5%. Residents of low-income neighborhoods often lack access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and contributes to income inequality.

Another factor contributing to income inequality in Waco is the lack of access to affordable housing. According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum wage worker in Waco would need to work 97 hours per week (!) to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. This lack of affordable housing puts a strain on low-income families, who may be forced to choose between paying rent and buying food, healthcare, and other necessities.

So, what can ordinary people do to become more aware of income inequality in their community? Here are a few suggestions:

Educate yourself. Take the time to learn about the extent of income inequality in Waco, its causes, and its impact on the community. Read local news articles, attend community events, and talk to people in your neighborhood about their experiences.

Support local organizations. There are many organizations in Waco that are working to address income inequality and provide resources to low-income families. Consider volunteering your time or donating money to these organizations, such as Caritas of Waco, Waco Habitat for Humanity, and Mission Waco/Mission World.

Advocate for policy change. Income inequality is a complex issue that requires policy solutions at the local, state, and national levels. Contact your elected officials and advocate for policies that promote economic justice, such as increasing the minimum wage, providing affordable housing, and investing in education and job training programs.

Shop local. Supporting local businesses can have a positive impact on the local economy and help to reduce income inequality. Consider shopping at locally-owned stores and restaurants, rather than national chains.

Income inequality is a pressing issue in Waco, TX, and one that requires the attention and action of the community. By educating ourselves, supporting local organizations, advocating for policy change, and shopping local, we can work together to reduce income inequality and create a more just and equitable society for all.

Jeremy R. Rhodes, PhD, is senior director of data and research at Prosper Waco.


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