Truth or Rumor: Is College Station Really the Nation’s 9th Poorest City?
Status: Not exactly.
Let’s play a quick word association game: What comes to mind when you hear the words “College Station?”
- Texas A&M? Of course.
- Aggies? This is too easy.
- Low crime and unemployment rates? Correct again.
- Great family town? Wow, you have this game down pat.
- Poverty? Huh?
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, College Station is the ninth poorest city in the country, just one notch behind Detroit — yes, the one in Michigan. A Bloomberg news report last week went one better:
“The College Station-Bryan metro area, home to Texas A&M University, had the greatest concentration of very poor people in the nation, with 16.4 percent of its residents earning less than half the federal poverty rate.”
Like the rest of the country, College Station certainly has its share of citizens who are struggling economically, but interpreting such raw data without context is misleading and creates false conclusions. Where did Bloomberg and the U.S. Census go wrong? For some reason, they included college students in their calculations, which results in an eye-popping 39.4 percent poverty rate. Earlier this year, Bloomberg itself reported that College Station is America’s youngest city with an average age of 22.1 years, well below the national average of 36.8. In fact, more than half our population is between 15 and 24 years old.
Apparently, the dots were not connected.
According to the Census, 93,857 people called College Station home in 2010, which included a large majority of Texas A&M’s 49,000 students and a good share of Blinn’s 12,000 students. How many of those kids do you think had an actual income above the official poverty line of $10,830? Most would not be considered poor in the traditional sense, yet statistically they are classified as poor — or very poor.
Would one of the poorest cities really have the nation’s lowest foreclosure rate? Would it have one of the state’s lowest unemployment rates? Nationally-respected news organizations and think tanks have recognized College Station on many positive fronts since the 2010 census:
- Top 10 U.S. Cities for Raising Families (Kiplinger’s)
- Top 10 U.S. Cities for Business (Forbes)
- Top 10 U.S. Cities for Jobs/Careers (Forbes)
- Top 5 Best Small Metros in U.S. (Milken Institute)
- Among 5 U.S. Cities in Full Blown Economic Expansion (MSNBC)
- Top 20 U.S. Cities for Education (Forbes)
- Top 5 U.S. Cities for Military Retirement (USAA)
- Lowest foreclosure rate (1 percent) in the U.S. (RealtyTrac)
Does that sound like the poorest city in the country to you? We didn’t think so, either.