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.

6 responses

  1. It is true that because of the large student population that these census statistics are skewed, in some sense, but to imply that students and families in the BCS area do not struggle with poverty is ignorant and shameful. A large percentage of students will leave school in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Thousands of students are able to attend school only because they and their families make so little that they qualify for tuition assistance. There are, I’m sure, thousands of residents (even if we choose to, for whatever reason, disqualify some for being too young) who struggle to subsist off of service industry occupations that offer little in the way of healthcare or security. There are plenty of residents, I’m sure, that work long ours and multiple jobs in an attempt to make a living wage but don’t. There may even be City and State employees locally who don’t make enough? So what’s the ratio of renters to home owners in this town? Could that be a reason for low forclosures? Wait, who’s skewing these statistics? Disregarding young people, students, and the poor as an inconvenient statistic is pretty upsetting to me. These are RESIDENTS and they have the right to vote and be represented so you might want to be a little nicer by aknowledging your neighbor instead of ignoring them. Shame on you, City Blog, for pretending there is no poverty. You should be ashamed for being so prideful. “Poverty? Huh?”

    November 11, 2011 at 2:39 am

    • cstxkillian

      Thanks for your comment. Our blog in no way implied that poverty does not exist in our community and we regret you read it that way. We were very clear that there are people struggling economically in our community. To point out that our level of poverty is skewed by our large student population is NOT saying that poverty doesn’t exist here. The purpose of the blog was not to marginalize the poverty that exists, but simply to provide a fuller context to recent news reports that claim we are one of the nation’s poorest cities.

      November 11, 2011 at 11:01 am

  2. I’m just thinking that it’s probably not a good idea to refer to a very large portion of the population as “these kids.” It isn’t very flattering. I get where you’re coming from, I am a life long resident of the area. But you have to admit, on a re-read, the post does sound a bit cold and exclusive. Thanks for your reply, I hope my input was constructive.

    November 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    • cstxkillian

      You do make some valid points and we appreciate your viewpoint. The “kids” reference probably reflects more about my age then it does about theirs!

      November 11, 2011 at 2:18 pm

  3. If Texas A & M is ravaged by poverty from college students, how come other major universities aren’t singled out on this report. I see this poverty everyday, and I have for the past three years, and I think it is a shame that College Station continues to ignore this problem…AggieLand is more than just Aggies, than again, maybe it’s not

    April 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    • City of College Station

      Thanks for the comment, Justin. Again, the blog doesn’t in any way imply that poverty doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem in our community. In fact, it clearly states that “College Station certainly has its share of citizens who are struggling economically.” The blog simply points out that the 2010 U.S. Census numbers are misleading. If college students are removed from the equation, our poverty rate is less than 10 percent, not 37 percent as cited in census. Not many college towns have our combination of factors that result in such a high census poverty rate, but some others actually do rank high on the list. Not many cities with the minimum population threshold have a student population that makes up more than half of the total.

      In addition, College Station does not ignore the problem. We have affordable housing programs that include downpayment assistance and rehabilition/reconstruction through federal grants, and we also substantially support several charitable agencies through Community Development Block Grants. Last year, College Station and Bryan contributed almost $300,000 in grants to local agencies such as the Twin City Mission. Twice a year, the city invites public input on how to best disperse these funds. The next meeting date will be sometime this summer, and we encourage you to take part.

      April 30, 2012 at 10:14 am

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