An estimated 14.6% of residents in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area live below the poverty line, roughly similar to the national poverty rate of 14.7% and a smaller share than the state’s poverty rate of 15.9%. Houston has the ninth lowest poverty rate of any Texas metro area.

A high school education can mean the difference between living above or below the poverty line. Nationwide, the 87.1% of Americans who have at least graduated high school are 1.9 times less likely to be in poverty than those who did not complete high school. In Houston, adults who graduated from high school are 1.7 times less likely to be in poverty. An estimated 82.3% of adults in Houston have at least a high school diploma, the eighth lowest high school attainment rate in the state.

The share of metro area residents living in poverty may depend on the health of the local job market. As the national unemployment rate fell from 8.9% in 2011 to 5.3% in 2015, the number of U.S. jobs increased by 9.9 million. In Houston, the 5.5% unemployment rate is higher than the jobless rate nationwide, which may partially explain the moderate poverty rate.

Moderate poverty often creates the conditions for a moderate violent crime rate. There were 567 violent crimes per 100,000 Houston residents in 2015, higher than the national crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

Living in poverty can have adverse effects on physical and mental health. With lower wages, those living in poverty are less likely to have access to healthy food, opportunities for physical activity, and quality medical care. In Houston, there are 327 premature deaths per 100,000 residents annually, less than the national premature death rate of 474 per 100,000 Americans.

While poverty tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods and districts within a city, a metropolitan area with a high poverty rate tends to have less wealthy residents overall. The typical household in the Houston metro area earns $61,465 annually, higher than both the median household income for Texas of $55,653, and the median income for all U.S. households of $55,775 nationwide. Houston has the fifth highest median household income of any Texas metro area.

Rank Metro Area Poverty
Rate
10 Pine Bluff, AR 25.7%
9 Valdosta, GA 26.6%
8 Merced, CA 26.7%
7 Greenville, NC 26.8%
5 Athens-Clarke County, GA 27.1%
5 Las Cruces, NM 27.1%
4 Visalia-Porterville, CA 27.6%
3 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 31.5%
2 Laredo, TX 31.8%
1 Brownsville-Harlingen, TX 32.4%