Dallas Elite Not Immune to Poverty

This is how poverty dims the prospects for everyone in our city, rich or poor.

Dallas enjoyed a long run as one of the fastest-growing, wealthiest metropolitan regions in America. Home to billionaires, five major professional sports teams, two of the nation's 10 largest companies, etc, highly educated workers travel here for jobs and lower costs of living.

But persistent poverty, especially among the working poor, threatens to derail the city’s prosperity for both the poor and the rich, and for the middle class trying to secure a spot in between.

It’s time Dallas faces it: If we remain severed by wealth, with so many of our fellow residents poor, we will be unable to sustain this level of prosperity.

The Dallas area has already become extraordinarily segregated by income level. Rich people here live in rich neighborhoods, and poor people live in poor neighborhoods. When people in Dallas talk about the disappearing middle class, this is what they are talking about.

Researchers have long shown that high concentrations of poverty creates more poverty.

For thousands in Dallas, hard work isn't enough to escape poverty. In 1970, just 13 percent of Dallas families lived in poor neighborhoods — or areas where median incomes were less than two-thirds that of the area as a whole. That held steady for the next 20 years or so but was climbing quickly by 2000, when the rate hit 21 percent. More and more neighborhoods across southern Dallas and into West Dallas had concentrated poverty.

By 2014, one in four Dallas-area families lived in a poor neighborhood. That made the Dallas area, which includes Irving and Plano and nearby suburbs, the seventh worst among America’s 100 largest metro areas. Compare that to the western half of the metroplex, which ranked 30th.

In terms of overall income segregation, the Dallas area ranks second, behind only Newark, N.J.

Reardon said economic segregation affects a community in two main ways.

The first problem, he said, is that kids living in poor neighborhoods tend to do worse in school. In addition to the obvious personal hardships created when people don’t achieve their full potential, it’s also limiting for the economy. And it shifts the tax burden for the rest of the community: The share of taxpayers who foot the bill for government services — from welfare to parks to police — gets smaller.

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