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Four of the Ten U.S. Cities With the Highest Levels of Income Segregation Are in Texas

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Congratulations, Texas. We’ve received a dubious distinction: In this list published yesterday by Richard Florida of The Atlantic‘s Cities blog and his team at the Martin Prosperity Institute of the U.S. cities with the highest levels of income segregation, a staggering four of ours landed on the top-ten list, including claiming the top spot. 

That top spot goes to San Antonio, while Houston clocks in at number four. Dallas lands in eighth place, while Austin rounds out the list at number ten. 

These are fairly shocking numbers, especially when you consider that no other state has more than one city in the top ten. Even California, which certainly has its own struggle with income segregation in its metropolitan areas, only appears on the list at number six, with the San Francisco/Oakland/Fremont area. 

So, what does all this actually mean? Essentially, it means that in major Texas cities, wealthy people live in enclaves surrounded by people with similar incomes and poor people live in neighborhoods surrounded largely by other poor people. The actual effects of that can be extrapolated by considering what it means if poor people don’t have the chance to see what it’s like to live with money, or if children of privilege grow up without much firsthand experience with people who aren’t as fortunate. 

As Florida puts it at the Atlantic

Major metro areas have been magnets for both the rich and the poor since ancient times; in fact they owe a great deal of their dynamism to their economic and social diversity. But growing economic segregation—the increasing tendency of affluent people to live in neighborhoods where almost everyone else is affluent, and poor people to live in neighborhoods where almost everyone else is poor—may be a more insidious problem. The emergence of a new urban geography of concentrated wealth and advantage juxtaposed to endemic poverty and concentrated disadvantage poses troubling implications for the economic mobility of people and the economic health of cities.

These aren’t things that no one has noticed before, of course. Demographer Steve H. Murdock—former head of the U.S. Census and current director of Rice’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas—wrote about this in his most recent bookChanging Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge. (Murdock further explained what he saw as the demographic challenges Texas faced in an interview with Texas Monthly‘s Jeff Salamon in February.)

Of course, studies like Florida’s can be misleading, as well. His list of the top-ten most segregated cities focuses only on “large metros,” or major cities. Texas is more than just its four largest cities. So how do our smaller and medium-sized cities fare? Let’s check back in with the Atlantic

The most highly segregated metros are actually smaller and medium sized, many of them in Texas. El Paso tops this list, followed by second and third-ranked Laredo and McAllen. College Station comes in sixth place. San Antonio, which is first out of large metros, is eighth overall, and Brownsville is ninth. Outside of Texas, Bridgeport, Connecticut is fourth; Trenton, New Jersey fifth; Memphis eighth; and Jackson, Tennessee tenth.


(image via flickr)

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  • johnny

    everyone should live in 1 big house

  • David Wallace

    So what?

    Developers of new-build
    neighborhoods have PRICE RANGES for their homes! GASP!

    Example: In one section you
    can by homes from the Low $100s to $250s. In another section, they build homes
    starting in the $300s. In the next section over you can get a home starting in
    the low $400s. This is how its been for DECADES. So naturally, low income people buy the homes offered in the lower income sections! People with higher incomes will buy what they can afford in the higher brackets!
    OMG! Its a crime! What a STUPID study!

    • Ellie

      I don’t think they are talking about income segregation of middle class people amongst each other. $100,000 to $250,000 are not poor people’s homes. Nice to meet you, Romney.

  • Dan Starr

    And? Why are we shocked that people of similar income levels, and most likely similar levels of education, similar personal interests, and goals seek to live near and associate with persons of similar disposition?
    The idea that “income segregation” is something to be worried about let alone consider a real thing or problem is ludicrous.

    • Sonja

      You don’t get out much do you? 🙂

  • Norman

    I hate it when they group the cities in large metro areas together. Dallas was famously redlined until the ’70s with real estate agents deliberately segregating the city into north and south halves along the Trinity west of downtown and along RL Thornton to the east. Fort Worth is more of a patchwork, but you wouldn’t know it from Richard Florida’s article. Nor does that methodology reveal differences in segregation in older, inner ring suburbs like Arlington or Garland compared to newer communities in Plano or Flower Mound. Florida needs to learn that Fort Worth is not only as far away from Dallas as Washington is to Baltimore, it is also larger than either DC or Charm City with just as distinct an identity.

  • Bubba

    Martin Prosperity Institute

    I don’t even care what Yankees think about Texas. Why should I care about Martians? They can go back to their own planet.