Oct 6, 2021 - News

Why Austinites live longer

Median lifespan for select Texas counties, in years
Data: University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Travis County, home to Austin, has the longest median life expectancy — by a lot — of virtually any major urban county in Texas, per an Axios analysis of county-by-county population data.

The big picture: Austin is also wealthier, better educated and generally has smaller Latino populations than its counterparts, experts tell Axios — variables that track neatly with life expectancy.

By the numbers: A child born today in Travis County can expect, on average, to live 81.9 years — or two years more than a kid born in Harris County (home to Houston), nearly three more than one born in Dallas County and three longer than a kid born in Bexar County (home to San Antonio).

  • El Paso County and Tarrant County (home to Fort Worth) all trail Travis by nearly two or more years.

Yes, but: Some historically suburban, majority white counties sport average longer life expectancies. Collin County, a slice of the North Texas metroplex, clocks in at 82.7 years.

Zoom in: Axios crossed the life expectancy data from the University of Wisconsin with race and poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau and found that Travis has a lower share of African Americans and poverty, and more of its residents have bachelor's degrees and higher incomes compared to Bexar, Dallas and Harris.

  • Half of Travis County residents older than 25 have at least an undergraduate degree; it's 31.5% in Harris and Dallas counties and 28% in Bexar.
  • One-tenth of Travis County residents live in poverty; the figure is 15% in Harris County.
  • Travis County is 8.9% Black; Harris is 20%, and Dallas is 23.6%.
  • Bexar County is 60.7% Latino; Travis is 33.6% and also trails Harris and Dallas counties.

Of note: City of Austin demographer Lila Valencia tells Axios that life expectancy at the county level "can conceal some of the variation within the county."

  • "You can expect to find lower life expectancies in those areas of Travis County with bigger shares of African Americans, households in poverty, lower median incomes and lower educational attainment," she said.
  • Structural barriers, like lack of health care and healthy food, have created a stark racial divide in Americans' health at every stage of life.

The bottom line: The findings come as Austin's Black population continues to dwindle amid an affordable housing and gentrification crisis.

  • As recently as 1990, Black residents made up more than 12% of the city's population. It’s now down to 6.9%.

Read more: See how life expectancy tracked with race, sometimes unexpectedly so


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