Homeless Victoria mother struggles to keep 7 kids off the street file

In this Advocate file photo from 2018, a woman hands a dollar bill and change to someone but does not accept her handmade trinkets. The stranger later returned with $100, enough for the family to rent a motel room for at least the night.

For years, income inequality has worsened across the nation.

But while the gap between the rich and poor has widened in the United States and in the state of Texas, it is remaining stable in the city of Victoria, recently released estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show.

“It’s definitely a very good thing to hear,” said Vicki Smith, the executive director of the Community Action Committee of Victoria, a nonprofit that offers assistance to residents of 15 counties, including Victoria. The nonprofit primarily offers utility assistance, weather protection for buildings and rent help.

Across the U.S., the gap between the rich and poor has grown dramatically since the late 1970s, something that some experts have warned will slow economic growth. And when Hurricane Harvey hit the region in August 2017, it revealed a deep divide between the people in Victoria and all of South Texas who could afford to rebuild and those who couldn’t.

Smith said the nonprofit’s utility assistance numbers have been down recently, which she thinks is likely because some people are moving in with one another to save money and cut down on bills. However, she said, people have been able to get more jobs in the area, too.

“With people finding jobs, it makes sense the income inequality isn’t getting worse,” she said. “That’s good news.”

Kirby Posey, a survey statistician with the census’ income statistics branch, said the Gini coefficient, a measure of income distribution across a population, calculates income inequality. The coefficient uses a scale of 0 to represent perfect equality, with each household receiving the same amount of income, and 1 to represent perfect inequality, with one household receiving all the income.

“What we’re seeing is the Gini coefficient ticked up nationally and ticked up in the state of Texas, but in the city of Victoria, it remained steady,” he said.

Because the gap between the rich and poor has been widening nationally for years, which indicates that benefits of the strong economy are not being shared evenly, the fact Victoria stayed stable is “really good,” Posey said.

The census estimates show that in Victoria, the Gini coefficient is .4728. In Texas, it is .4822. Nationally, it is .4845.

Additionally, the census estimates show the population of the city has grown. Julie Fulgham, the city’s director of development services, said the news that income inequality levels stayed stable is “very positive.” She said the city uses census data and focuses primarily on the latest population estimates.

“The census touches everybody, and it’s very, very important to us,” she said.

The recently released data, which is essentially a snapshot of 2018, estimates the city’s population at 67,020. Last year’s figure estimated the population at 66,515.

Population data is used to apply for grants, promote economic development and create the city’s comprehensive plans, Fulgham said, and a growing population is “always good.”

For example, Fulgham said, an increasing population can present a positive look to potential retailers.

“I think it speaks to the overall health of your city to have a growing city rather than a declining or a stagnating city,” she said.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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