August 14, 2012

Houston Tops the List of Major Metro Areas in Economic Segregation by Income

61

Among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas, Houston has the highest score – 61 out of 200 — on an index used to measure residential segregation by income.

Residential segregation by income has increased during the past three decades across the United States and in 27 of the nation’s 30 largest major metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of census tract and household income data by the Pew Research Center.

Two cities in Texas — Houston and Dallas — rank the highest when it comes to economic segregation as measured by the so-called RISI Score (Residential Income Segregation Index). The score is computed by adding the percentage of low-income households located in census tracts in which a majority of households are also low-income, to the percentage of upper-income households located in upper-income census tracts. For Houston, that meant 37% of low-income households were in low-income neighborhoods and 24% of high-income households were in high-income neighborhoods, for a total score of 61. The score for Dallas was 60.

Asked on the PBS NewsHour why the Texas cities came to rank so high, Pew executive Vice President Paul Taylor said it was the result of population growth that attracted two different streams of migration — high-end workers attracted to economically vibrant areas and low-end, low-skill migration “to build the new houses, to mow the lawns, to do the lower-end service jobs.”

“That has been a description of the changing demography of those cities,” Taylor said. “And it seems to play out in the changing residential patterns as well.” Read More