Place, Race, and Poverty in Dallas

Jennifer Lee

More than 1.2 million kids live in the Dallas metro area, representing more than one out of every six kids living in Texas. Dallas is a city of both great wealth and poverty, and the data show large differences in children’s health, education and financial security across race and ethnicity.

Like many Texas cities, policies and practices from Dallas’ past have a profound effect on its present. The mix of federal policy, discriminatory local laws and practices and racially-motivated violence are evident in where children live today.

The map below shows where children live in Dallas today. Each dot represents a child. The blank white areas in the northwest corner of the city show the locations of Dallas’ two major airports and a large warehouse park with few residences.

Dallas child population by race/ethnicity

dallas_child_pop_race_WEB w legend

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Decennial Census

 

Though the map shows areas that are racially and ethnically diverse, many areas of the city are racially homogenous. It’s important to remember that much of this division is not “natural” – it has been constructed through decades of policies and practices that reinforce these divisions.

Now let’s look at a child poverty map of Dallas. The blue areas represent the highest poverty areas, where over 40 percent of people live in poverty (less than $19,000 a year for a family of three). The orange areas represent the lowest poverty areas, where less than 10 percent of people live in poverty.

Dallas poverty rate, by census tract

dallas_total_pov_WEB w legend

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey (5-Year Estimates)

 

Comparing these two maps shows that large areas where mostly White children live are the lowest-poverty areas, while areas where Black and Latino children live are mostly moderate-to-high poverty areas.

Maps side by side
This matters because a large body of research shows that place matters: living in a high-poverty neighborhood is connected to worse outcomes for children, like higher dropout or teen birth rates. The resources available in high-poverty neighborhoods are often worse, such as lower-quality schools, or lacking, such as a dearth of grocery stores, banks or doctors.

It’s important to note that the first child population map above shows race, not family income. Although neighborhoods have increasingly become more economically homogeneous, data show that in Dallas, families of different races but with the exact same income levels live in neighborhoods characterized by very different poverty rates and income levels.

It’s a subtle but important distinction between family and neighborhood income and poverty. When you compare the neighborhoods where low-income White, Black and Latino families live, low-income Black and Latino families tend to live in far poorer neighborhoods than low-income White families. This difference is one of the ways that the legacies of past policies continue today and affect the environments in which children live.

Learn more about other child well-being topics in our annual State of Texas Children report, and our Dallas-specific State of Texas Children 2016: Race and Equity in Dallas. More city-level snapshots will be coming throughout the year.

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