Economists weigh in on Nacogdoches making poorest cities in America list

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It's known as the oldest town in Texas, but now, thanks to a recently released survey, Nacogdoches is getting recognized for a different reason. did an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey and using that data named Nacogdoches as one of the ten "poorest cities in America," labeling it as number 8.

But for Judy McDonald, the President of the Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation, that list is all wrong.

"The main thing that we have found by looking at this web site is that it has no credibility because it has mixed its information for counties and cities," McDonald said.

The survey says the median income for the city is around $32,000, and Bruce Partain, the President of the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce, says it isn't technically off.

"I think the $32-$34,000 per household median income, I think, is actually pretty accurate," Partain said.

But what isn't accurate, he says, is the population listed for the city and that number? 65,466. McDonald says the actual population for the city is half that.

According to NEDCO findings, the actual population for the City of Nacogdoches is 34,047 and the median income for the city is $29,769. The median income for Nacogdoches County is $47,703.

"What it comes down to is Nacogdoches does have a lower income and the reason for that is because we include our students," McDonald said.

McDonald says college students at Stephen F. Austin University are included in the U.S. Census, but because most are part-time employees or full-time students, they are labeling their income as zero.

"The disposable income that is brought to Nacogdoches by college students ranges anywhere from $5,000 to $11,000 a year," McDonald said.

Conservatively, she says, that disposable income brings the median income for the county up to $50 to $55,000. Unfortunately, those numbers are not included making the median income seem less than it actually is.

"There's a third of the people that are here that are SFA students. They're maybe on a scholarship, or maybe they are on a student loan, or maybe they are working part time at a job that doesn't necessarily pay super well, but they are accumulating their knowledge for their future income," Partain said. "So at this particular point they might be earning $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 a year or less and so you average that in with the rest of the households and it comes out a little bit lower than it would normally, but it's a real special case."

KTRE tried to obtain the raw census numbers but because of the government shutdown the web site is currently down. However, according to 2010 census numbers, the median income per household in Nacogdoches County was $33,632.

51.7 percent of those households made less than $35,000 while 30 percent made between $35,000 and $75,000 and only 18.4 percent made greater than 75,000.

Partain says the numbers might look small compared to median income per household for larger cities like Houston or Dallas, but for Nacogdoches, those numbers are quite good.

McDonald says Nacogdoches is nowhere near being poor, and says the findings in the survey for the other 9 cities are inaccurate as well. Those cities included were Lumberton, NC, Gallup, NM, Roanoke Rapids, NC, Brownsville-Harlingen, TX, Talladega-Sylacauga, AL, Cookeville, TN, Martinsville, VA, Forest City, NC, and Dalton, GA.

"It's nowhere near. Not just for Nacogdoches but for all ten cities that were listed because we checked them all," McDonald said.

Partain says Nacogdoches has a great technical industry and the important thing is to make sure kids stay in school. He says education is the key to improving an economy, especially for those that have specific skills.

"There are a lot of technical jobs that a person can do. You know IT type jobs, mechanic type jobs, and health care technology jobs. These are all things that we are already focusing on," Partain said.

McDonald says surveys like this can make it harder to bring in out-of-town business since they are not seeing the actual median income with the disposable money the students bring to the community. But she says,  Nacogdoches has nothing to worry about.

Copyright 2013 KTRE. All rights reserved.