Page 36


Texas #1 in percentage of citizens without health insurance of Texans are uninsured \(PER GALLUP-HEALTHWAYS the population increase. As Texans become older, they’ll need to rely on some immigrants to bolster the tax base. Some of the state’s success in 2040 will depend on whether the Texas leaders of today decide to welcome immigrants or pass increasingly xenophobic policies. parts of the United States, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. By 2040, there will be a large elderly Anglo population that will work longer and retire later. There will also be an ethnically diverse younger population, but fewer people of working age contributing to the tax base and Social Security because of Americans’ current trend of having fewer children. Texas’ older residents will be counting on the reduced workforce to fuel the economy and pay into social service programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Three out of every four of those workers will be non-Anglo, according to Murdock. It’s to the benefit of all that Texas has a highly educated workforce that can significantly contribute to the tax base. “I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I’m going to havefire, police and other servicesdepend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.” Next year the first wave of Baby Boomers \(born are living longer, Texas will have a large population of retirees. States will need some sort of immigrationdomestic or internationalto provide the tax base for the social services those retirees will need, Murdock says. “Immigrants are at the paying ages, not the taking ages,” he says. In Texas’ favor, our population is younger than most other states, thanks to immigration and a large Hispanic population with above-average birth rates. Many believe that Texas’ population boom is due to international immigrationillegal and legalbut at least 54 percent of Texas’ growth is from Texas residents, with 22 percent from domestic immigration. International immigration counts for 24 percent of Rural vs. Urban The state is growing by at least 1,000 people a day, says Perryman. Texas still has the largest rural population in the nation, but it’s increasingly becoming an urban state with the majority of its population in an area called the “Central Texas Triangle,” which encompasses the metro areas of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Residents in rural areas such as the Panhandle and West Texas will be increasingly elderly and Anglo, while South and Central Texas and the urban corridor surrounding Fort Worth and Dallas will grow younger and more ethnically diverse. “We need to keep up with the infrastructure needs to serve the fast growing population,” Perryman says. The state’s rural population will also continue to grow, albeit slightly, but it will be largely eclipsed by the urban and suburban growth. On the whole, rural Texans will be older than their urban counterparts. Health Care Texas will need a healthy work force and affordable health care for its large elderly population. State leaders need to do something drastic now to fix serious health inequities that already exist. Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation, with one in four residents having no health insurance. At least 21 percent of today’s children under 18 don’t have health coverage. Will these children grow up to have a disproportionate amount of chronic illnesses? Not only are Texans becoming sicker, the consequences of uncompensated care means that every resident, business and local government in the state pays the extra costs of treating the uninsured. It remains to be seen what impact the recently passed federal health care legislation will have on these daunting numbers. Tough Decisions The state’s economic health in 2040 depends on whether its leaders today take a shortsighted approach to governing or choose to invest for the long term. With an estimated $24 billion budget shortfall this legislative session, lawmakers will be facing tough decisions that will have a ripple effect for future generations. “I hope that we don’t get into across-the-board cuts,” says Perryman. “When there’s budget cuts, education always seems to take it on the chin. We need some real leadership to prioritize our needs and make some tough decisions.” If state leaders don’t make those tough decisions now, future generations could be less educated, less economically competitive, have higher levels of poverty and be in greater need of government assistance. It’s up to the state’s leadership and its people to reverse that course. El 2ural areas will be increasingly elderly and Anglo, while urban Texas grows younger and more ethnically diverse. Looming budget cuts will have a ripple effect for future generations. the latest Texas 1 census data at FOR MORE on Texas population predictions read DECEMBER 10, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 111