The Economic Divide

Houston is No. 4 most economically segregated city, but we're divided by education, not income

Houston economically segregated by education, not income, report says

Houston skyline with buildings day
According to a new study, Houston is the No. 4 most economically segregated large metro in the country.

A new report found that four of the top 10 most economically segregated large metro areas (those with populations more than 1 million) in the country are in Texas. Austin claims the top spot, followed by San Antonio (No. 3), Houston (No. 4) and Dallas (No. 7).

Segregated City: The Geography of Economic Segregation in America’s Metros, an 86-page report written by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellande for the Martin Prosperity Institute, analyzes “the degree to which neighborhoods are made up of people of the same economic level” based on income, education and occupation; researchers mapped the data across the more than 70,000 Census tracts that make up America’s 350-plus metros. The higher each city ranked in those three specific kinds of segregation, the higher it ranked overall.

However, when you drill down into categories, Houston appears most economically segregated by education, not income. Houston ranks No. 2 on the list of metro areas that are most segregated among college graduates and the creative class. It is also No. 2 overall in the education category and the No. 8 most segregated area among high school graduates.

 When you drill down into categories, Houston appears most segregated by education, not income. 

But Houston does not rank in the top 10 largest metros with the highest levels of overall income segregation or on lists where the wealthy or the poor are most segregated.

Houston is also not on the top 10 list where the service class is most segregated. It is No. 8 among segregation of the working class and No. 7 on overall occupational segregation.

The report found that the most segregated cities have certain characteristics in common.

For instance, economic segregation tends to be higher in cities with large populations, a significant technology industry presence and creative class, higher levels of education, and a large minority share of the population. Other factors considered were income and wage inequality, the breakdown of liberal and conservative voters, and even how people commute within the city.

Researchers note that overall economic segregation has increased dramatically over the past few decades. “It is not just that the economic divide in America has grown wider; it’s that the rich and poor effectively occupy different worlds, even when they live in the same cities and metros,” reads the study.

“Separating across these three key dimensions of socio-economic class, [this economic segregation trend] threatens to undermine the essential role that cities have played as incubators of innovation, creativity and economic progress.”

Non-Texas large metro areas rounding out the top 10 are Columbus, Ohio (No. 2); Los Angeles (No. 5); New York (No. 6); Philadelphia (No. 8); Chicago (No. 9); and Memphis (No. 10).

Read the entire report here.


CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh contributed to this article.