Poverty Segregates City: Local Report Points to Need for Asset Building Strategies

SAN ANTONIO (July 23, 2019) – A study released today by the San Antonio Area Asset Funders Network (San Antonio Area AFN) with support from the San Antonio Area Foundation and JPMorgan Chase reveals a significant lack of economic opportunity in San Antonio that must be addressed by expanding asset building strategies for low-income families. Asset building is the ability to gather resources that will help people spend, save, borrow, and plan for economic advancement and unexpected hard times. 

“While San Antonio is economically strong overall, there are growing pockets of our community where barriers to financial health are preventing families from moving out of poverty,” said Frances A. Gonzalez, program officer for the San Antonio Area AFN. “As a community, we need to build on people’s strengths by increasing their capability, access, and opportunity for better housing, education, job and health outcomes,” she added.

The report, developed by Texas Appleseed and supported by a steering committee of regional foundations and banks, along with additional backing from Texas Capital Bank and Wells Fargo, draws on demographic, economic, education and healthcare data to describe San Antonio’s low-income families. The study also includes a review of city-based initiatives to combat growing disparities, a survey of local nonprofits working in the asset-building field, and focus groups with individuals who benefit from asset-building services. The report concludes with actionable recommendations for funders, policymakers, and other stakeholders. 

Top Key findings in the report include:

  • Economic Mobility: San Antonio is more integrated compared to other U.S. cities, but poverty in the city is segregated—concentrated in majority Hispanic and Black communities.
  • Financial Health: San Antonio families have lower median credit scores, higher delinquent debts, and limited savings compared to the U.S.
  • Employment: San Antonio has relatively low unemployment, but many available jobs are low-wage.
  • Housing: Most low-income San Antonio renters spend more than 1/3 of their income on housing, making them housing-burdened, and evictions are increasing.
  • Education: Economically disadvantaged students in San Antonio public schools are not leaving school college ready, and there is low educational attainment in San Antonio’s lower-income zip codes.
  • Health: San Antonio has a high uninsured rate, which disproportionately impacts low-income Hispanic and Black families.

“When a disaster hits our community, the private, philanthropic and nonprofit sector rally to find common solutions,” said Marjie M. French, chief executive officer for the San Antonio Area Foundation, which helped fund the study and contributed to the formation of local Asset Funders Network. “With 35 percent of Hispanic female and 27 percent of African American female heads of household living in poverty, an economic crisis exists in our city that demands a significant, coordinated response,” said French.

The study reveals significant socio-economic disparities that correlate to a person’s zip code, race, and gender. Women of all ethnicities and African American men are the least economically mobile populations in San Antonio.  Four zip codes (78202, 78207, 78208, 78211) were identified as “high need”, which means that they have worse than average outcomes for two or more data categories (poverty, unemployment, uninsured, income, education, etc.)

The report makes data-driven recommendations to enhance asset building resources and opportunities for high need populations. Actionable recommendations are grouped under six categories in the report:

  1. Foster integration of asset building and social safety net services
  2. Focus on highest need geographies and populations
  3. Enhance safety net for low-income families
  4. Expand access to products and services that support asset building and asset preservation
  5. Support local policy work to ensure public, nonprofit and philanthropic efforts complement each other
  6. Offer organizational support to nonprofits to enhance long-term viability and outcomes

“There are growing disparities in how prosperity is being felt across our community. One of the most important things we can do to build a healthy, vibrant San Antonio is work together so that all San Antonians share in the rewards of a growing economy,” said Morris Camp, market executive for JPMorgan Chase in San Antonio. “We are pleased to do our part by supporting the work of organizations like the Asset Funders Network as part of our $125 million, five-year commitment to financial health.”

For detailed strategies and examples for funders, policymakers, and other stakeholders, please refer to the report which will be released at the press conference. Experts involved in the study will be available for interviews to discuss the current state of poverty in San Antonio and the recommendations from this report. 

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