Why the Texas Middle Class is Shrinking

Garrett Groves

Report shows keys to reducing wage disparities and promoting economic growth

Over the past 30 years, the largest share of jobs at the center of the U.S. economy – known as “middle-skill jobs” – have been declining according to a report released today from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Middle-skill jobs are those that have historically paid middle-class wages for procedural tasks, like manufacturing assembly work or filing and data entry in an office. As these jobs disappear, more Texans must obtain higher levels of education and training to acquire skills valued in the labor market. Otherwise, they risk becoming trapped in a growing number of low-skill occupations that provide low-wages for manual and service labor.

The joint report surveyed all 28 regional workforce development boards in Texas. It measures how Texas communities are addressing the challenge of the declining middle class and identifies the most innovative and robust efforts to align workforce development activities across the state.

Regions in Texas that are addressing the declining middle class directly are building specialized “talent pipelines” to accomplish three important tasks:

  1. Identify businesses driving regional economic growth through industry cluster analysis 
  2. Convene these business leaders with education and training providers through a sector partnership that identifies skill gaps and other labor market challenges for their industry
  3. Work together to create and strengthen career pathways where needed to provide a skilled workforce for their region and employment opportunities for their residents. 

The report concludes with a set of recommendations on how some of Texas’ state-level entities can help support local efforts to build world-class talent pipelines to middle-skill, middle-wage jobs and beyond.

Read the full report here and download our 2-pager here.

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