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American Community Survey Shows Wide Income Disparity Across North Texas

U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest American Community Survey that provides estimates on social, economic, demographic and housing data. Five-year estimates were released that include data from 2008 through 2012.

If you’re a data geek, you’ll like what this survey says:

What does it show about North Texas?

Dallas County has the poorest residents. The five-year 2012 ACS shows the county with a median household income of $49,159, while Collin County had a median income of $83,238. In Rockwall County, it’s $82,725. But in Tarrant County, it’s $56,859.

But if you drill down into the Dallas County data, you see a wide disparity between Dallas’ more prosperous northern half and the area south of Interstate 30.

  • In one part of the Park Cities, the median household income is $222,188. In one tract of Lake Highlands, it’s $131,058. In the M Streets in East Dallas, it’s $93,396.

  • But in south Dallas, the median household income varies from $28,457 north of Fair Park to just $14,721 in another tract near Fair Park.

Head to northeast Tarrant County, home to exclusive suburbs like Southlake, where high median incomes abound – they’re often in the $175,000 to $200,000 range.

In Denton County, most of the county’s southern section reported high median incomes – around $100,000 in many places. But once you move north toward Denton, the incomes fall.

And many people have flocked to Collin County for newer homes and good schools. While there are pockets of neighborhoods with lower median incomes, many have consistently high household incomes – often $80,000, $90,000 or $100,000.

Health insurance, the foreign-born, marital status

Want to know how many folks have health insurance? According to the 2012 ACS, 27 percent of Dallas County residents don’t have health insurance. To the east, only 13 percent of Rockwall County residents are uninsured.

According to the five-year data (from 2008 to 2012), about 23 percent of Dallas County residents were foreign-born. That compares to about 18 percent in Collin County, 16 percent in Tarrant County, 14 percent in Denton County and 10 percent in Rockwall County.

What about marital status? If you’re single and looking for love, you probably won’t have as much luck in Collin County – nearly 60 percent of adults there are married. That compares to 50 percent in Tarrant County and 45 percent in Dallas County – that’s more in line with state and national averages. Nationwide, 48 percent of Americans are married.

What’s the American Community Survey?

It provides a wide range of statistics about people and housing for every community across the country.

“Everyone from retailers and homebuilders to town and city planners use the results,” the Census says. “The survey is the only source of local statistics for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities.”

The Census says that the survey helps determine how more than $400 billion of federal funding are spent on infrastructure and services, from highways to schools to hospitals.

The ACS has replaced the “long form” Census questionnaires that were sent to certain households every 10 years. Census officials randomly select 3.5 million addresses to complete the survey – those who get the ACS are required by law to complete it.

What’s new?

The ACS says this is the first five-year data release to include health insurance coverage, disability, marital history, and veterans' service-connected disability status and ratings.

Poring through Census data sounds boring. Is there anything out there to make it fun to explore the data?

I’m glad you asked. The Census has launched a fun site called Census Explorer that allows you to visually explore the data. You can examine various categories -- down to census tract level -- including median household income, foreign-born population, and those who have bachelor’s degrees.

But not all of the ACS data appears on Census Explorer. To access the rest of the five-year ACS statistics, click here.

And how about apps? Does the Census have an app?

Yep. It’s called dwellr. Here’s how the Census describes it: “City or country? Bike or drive to work? Beach or mountains? Download the U.S. Census Bureau’s dwellr app today to discover the top 25 U.S. cities and towns that best fit your lifestyle. Whether you prefer the bright lights of the big city or wide open spaces, dwellr powers your phone with neighborhood-level statistics on topics such as home values, education, and how people get to work so that you can explore where you want to dwell. Once you’ve found your dream neighborhood, take dwellr with you wherever you go.”

Click here to learn more about the Census Explorer, which was mentioned Tuesday on KERA 90.1 FM.

WNYC, a public radio station in New York City, produced this interactive map showing median household incomes:

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.