San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 11th, 2011
Officials say ACS may exaggerate city's youth

News Reporter

Regional and city officials say the latest American Community Survey (ACS) put out by the U.S. Census Bureau probably makes the city appear to be poorer than it is, due to the presence of Texas State students.

The recent data release contains two remarkable statistics about San Marcos — namely, that the city’s median household income decreased 20 percent during the last 10 years, and that median population age in the city is 13.5 years younger than the national average. Though the ACS indicates that the median national age increased 3.3 percent during the last 10 years, the survey indicates that the San Marcos median age of 23 years has remained flat during the same period.

The five-year ACS issued on Dec. 14 offers the most accurate information to date about the city’s population. The ACS includes demographic, economic, housing, and social characteristics averaged during five years between 2005 and 2009. In the absence of a full-blown census, information about an area the size of San Marcos must be gathered through several years to obtain any degree of accuracy.

The U.S. Census Bureau has released statewide population totals, but more detailed local information will be released in the coming months. Thus, the ACS does not include data from the 2010 U.S. Census, which stands to be the most accurate available.

Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) Director of Economic Development John Rees said the recession may be responsible for some of the 20 percent decrease in city median household income, though he said much of the decline may be attributed to the growth of Texas State.

The ACS said median household income in the city was $25,809 in 1999 and $26,585 from 2005-2009. Rees said the median income in San Marcos actually decreased 20 percent when factoring in inflation.

Rees said the university may also at least partially account for the young median age in the city and the increase in proportions of income devoted to paying rent.

The ACS indicates that the percentage of San Marcos families below the poverty level remains about the same as in 1999.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of San Marcos numbered 39,078 in 2001, 42,618 in 2002, 43,969 in 2003, 45,049 in 2004, 47,101 in 2005, 48,433 in 2006, 50,530 in 2007, 52,233 in 2008, and 53,205 in 2009. The 2009 figure represents data released through the 2010 Census.

The ACS indicates that the proportion of the city’s population aged 16 and older in the civilian labor force from 2005-2009 was 63.9 percent, amounting to an eight percent decrease since 2000.

Amy Madison, President and CEO of the Greater San Marcos Economic Development Corporation, said her organization has not discovered why many people seem to be dropping out of the work force.

“What we do know is that training is probably at the root of it,” Madison said. “Having an opportunity for our workforce in San Marcos to be trained and expand their capability is crucial to our future, and we feel that rather than entering the workforce, that some folks are remaining out of the workforce because they just don’t have the skills to get into the positions that are available.”

The ACS indicates that renters of housing units from 2005-2009 devoted more household income to housing costs than they did in 1999. Rees and Madison said the growth of the university may account for some of this increase. Texas State enrollment has about doubled in the last 10 years to more than 30,000 students.

“Our statistics in 2009 showed that our cost of living per capita income was very, very high,” Madison said. “But you have to understand, that has a lot to do with students. There’s a lot of rental property, there’s a lot of apartments and a lot of kids renting … San Marcos is blessed to have the university, but our statistics, at times, are somewhat skewed because of our student population here.”

In order to get an accurate profile of non-students, Rees said he attempted to geographically isolate and remove students from the ACS data. However, Rees said he was unsuccessful because more than 75 percent of students live off-campus, mixed with the general population.

Enrollment at Texas State increased 37 percent between 2000 and 2009. Texas State enrolled 30,803 students in fall 2009 and 32,573 students in fall 2010.

However, the ACS also indicates that homeowners from 2005-2009 devoted more income to housing costs than they did in 1999, and the proportions of households making less than $15,000 annually and more than $75,000 increased since 1999.

The ACS also shows that the proportion of city residents working in manufacturing-related fields declined 39 percent and sales and office occupations declined seven percent since 2000. The proportion of residents working in service occupations increased 20 percent since 2000. The educational, health and social services industries in San Marcos decreased 13 percent since 2000. The retail trade sector increased 16.6 percent since 2000. The arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services sector increased 11.9 percent since 2000.

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0 thoughts on “Officials say ACS may exaggerate city's youth

  1. I don’t buy it. If the median age is flat, then that would indicate that all age groups increase proportionally. We have the same approximate breakout that we did a decade ago and the same income. We just haven’t moved appreciably. The students aren’t any more of a factor than they were the last time. The simple truth is, incentives to Target and the Outlet Mall, etc., have not brought good-paying jobs. Hell, we have college students working part time at my office, making $20,000.

    The numbers don’t work, even if that is not typical. A student, earning $10,000, even if s/he had the entire income for his/her household, could only average $27,000 with another household, if that household was earning $43,000. If that’s the average non-student income in San Marcos, we’re not exactly wealthy. Unfortunately, there are more non-student households than student households. We have 2.3 people per household, or thereabout.

    If every student household has 1 person and the rest have 2.5, then the $10,000 student household averages out to $27,000, with a $35,000 non-student household.

    If, however, every student household is 2.3 people, then they are right in line with everyone else, averaging their $23,000 with our $31,000.

    Maybe students make less than $10,000. Maybe I overlooked something. I’d love to see some actual research behind the theory that the students are bringing our income levels down so far, because I just don’t see it. There is a shortage of jobs in San Marcos and there is a shortage of career-ready employees.

    Just citing the student population, is a simple way to get a percentage of people nodding their heads and moving on, and hopefully letting the issue drop. The issue deserves a little more thought than that.

  2. Yes, a large student population is going to exaggerate the poverty rate for a town. They live in the town, but they generally have little to no income — so statistically, they are considered to be in poverty. Also, the 2010 Census will only give basic demographic information about San Marcos — population, ages, sex and race/Hispanic origin, and that information won’t be available until February or March 2011. The American Community Survey statistics for San Marcos will be updated yearly and averaged over a three-year period. There is data available now for the 2007-2009 period. Next year’s will be 2008-2010, etc.

  3. Perhaps, but the distribution has not changed, so the growth at the university would not appear to be the reason that our overall numbers have not gone up appreciably. Also, to say that the numbers would be higher, without the students, does not say anything about how much higher. I’d wager the incomes would still be low, or else more detail would be offered. Playing with the numbers seems to support this theory.

  4. I don’t know what the confusion is, but there are in fact more students than non-students in the city. And while a lot do work, the great majority do not have a job beyond school. They bring money into the community from their parents &/or financial aide. Add to that all employees of the University and there’s not much left in the city. What’s there is primarily service & retail oriented supporting the University driven population. If you took the University (students) out of San Marcos, there would literally be no town. Remember that next time you want to call the police about a party or complain in some zoning meeting. The truth is it’s their town and most of the city exists because it makes a living off of them.

  5. I think the last paragraph explains much about the relatively low incomes in San Marcos. A depletion of manufacturing and office jobs, and an increase in service and retail jobs. That’s a draw-down on income overall.

    Are some students filling these service and retail jobs? Most certainly they are. But like Ted, I suspect San Marcos incomes would be low even after part-time student labor is factored out.

  6. Dennis, there are not more students than non-students, by any stretch of the imagination. Considering the University, students and all, by its own study, accounts for 20% of our economy, I would have hoped that the “Texas State *is* the city” comments would have gone the way of the dodo bird by now.

    You should learn a bit more about the city.

  7. Ted, I would argue those numbers with you. We’re waiting on the final census, but the population figure is going to be around 54-55k right? Enrollment at the university is over 32.5k. I’ll grant you that a small number are commuting, but it is a VERY small percentage. I can give you a few thousand and still call it 55% students.

    The University says it directly impacts 20% of the city economy. That’s salaries, purchasing, contractors, etc. It’s not the money spent by over 32k students, almost all of which is imported into the community with a much greater impact on the local economy. If you remove 55% of the population, how many businesses go out? How many other businesses depend on those businesses?

    I don’t mean that the city should be subordinate to the University community, but it needs to be more tolerant. You need to accept that reality before you start deciding what to drive the local economy on.

    Quit focusing on manufacturing or labor jobs and start retaining more graduates. For instance, there’s a lot of tech companies in the Austin area. Places like Round Rock do very well with that, but I think San Marcos has more to offer, both in location and the resources of the university. San Marcos is a beautiful place with a solid college experience that attracts kids to come to school here. Give them a reason to stay and everyone is better off. Give that company what it needs to come here, because they aren’t your tax base. Those well paid employees and the houses they live in are your tax base. We can do great things, but we need to accept who and we are as a community, and that’s more about the university than everything else.

  8. Dennis, most are commuting from outside of San Marcos. The numbers are on this site and have been confirmed by the university, in many forims. I’m not going to dig for them at the moment, as I am on my way out the door, but I want to say 15,000 are local, maybe 20,000.

    Of those, 5 or 6,000 are ine the dorms and I would be very interested to know how many of those students consider themselves San Marcos residents, as opposed to residents of their home towns. This may or may not impact their census completion.

    Also, I do not believe 100% of any demographic replied to the census, so it is unlimely that all 15,000 – 20,000 (or whatever the number) are even counted in that 53,000, but I can give you 100% and call it 28-38%. Even that would paint a picture of imbalance, since the 20%, as reported by the university, includes spending by the university, the faculty and staff, the students and all the creative ways to count the money recirculating through the local economy.

    Again, I think you should do some digging, because it sounds like you are basing your postition on some inaccurate assumptions.

  9. I do agree that we should focus on retaining more graduates. I’ve been saying htat here, for as long as this site has been up, and I have been saying it elsewhere for much, much longer. Retaining graduates would help the economy, it would help the town and gown relations, it would help the university – it would have tremendous benefit, across the board.

  10. Dennis,
    I’m with Ted regarding population argument here. I have been told, although I am not sure how to verify, that the majority of students are NOT counted in the population census. In fact, one city official told me very few students are accounted in the census and went as far as to say our population fluctuates between 50-80,000.(depending on time of year)

    San Marcos also has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and a 5A high school. Not many “25,000” population towns would support that school system. If we were the size you indicated, the schools would be much smaller.

  11. I will say, as a current and former student, living with a graduate, with many friends in similar positions, we’re not generally tolerant of raging house parties next door, at 3:00 in the morning, on a Thursday. Retaining more of us, with our 8-5 jobs, and kids in school, etc., isn’t going to magically create tolerance for that. It is inconsiderate behavior, period, and other students complain about it as often as non-students.

    I mention this because of your initial comment about “thinking about this before you call the police,” and the tolerance comments in the last post. Live and let live is a two-way street.

  12. Well, I have to agree with Ted on the student noise issue. This morning at 2:20, my wife was awakened by a wasted student staggering down the street and singing at the top of his lungs. And early one morning last week, a male-female couple walked past our house — again, at about quarter past 2 am — and the girl was shouting “Help!” over and over. Thing is, she was not in danger (she kept screaming and he just laughed), yet it woke me up and I sat up in bed trying to process what I was hearing. Thanks to them, I stayed awake for hours.

    Trust me, I was no angel when I was in college. But you know what? I got in trouble fairly often, and I deserved it every time. I don’t see the harm in having a few of these students share in that same learning experience. I doubt it will force them to swear off San Marcos or Texas State.

  13. I would only add that, just as there are plenty of students who complain about the late-night idiocy, there are plenty of non-students causing problems. I just don’t believe for a second that getting more students to stay after graduation is somehow going to create some kind of tolerance for that stuff.

    What probably would create tolerance, would be better buffers between the single-family neighborhoods and the multi-family complexes, but then, that would be inconvenient for the developers.

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