As the Dallas economy has boomed over the last decade, something else has surged, too — the wealth gap between whites and people of color.
A report released this month by nonprofit Prosperity Now attributes the disparity, in part, to the city’s “extensive history of segregation and its longer lasting effects.” And exacerbating these disparities are home values and housing costs in Dallas.
According to the report, the median property value among white residents in Dallas is nearly $300,000, whereas for black and Latino families, the value of their homes is under $100,000.
White households make up 95 percent of upper-middle-income households across Dallas-Fort Worth, but make up about 50 percent of the population. However, the communities of color that make up the other half of the Metroplex represent just 5 percent of upper-middle-income households and 83 percent of low-income households, according to the report.
“The No. 1 source of wealth for most people is their homes and we see how much less value black and Latino homes [have] in Dallas,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, co-author of the report.
Racial disparity in Dallas isn’t limited to property value. The divide extends to income, home ownership and liquid asset poverty as well.
And the key finding in the report: Dallas is made up mostly of people of color, which means this disparity is being felt by the majority of the people who live here.
For instance, Dallas’ Latino population has grown over the last 30 years to make up 42 percent of the population, but median income for Latinos has dropped from nearly $48,000 in 1980 to under $38,000 in 2016, according to the report.
“We’ve seen a pretty steady decline in median income for blacks and Latinos,” Asante-Muhamad said. “Since 1980, black and Latino median income go down about $10,000 to the point today, where the median black income is $30,000 and for Latinos is right around $40,000, while the median income for whites is about $73,000.”
In Dallas, white families are ahead of state and national averages for income by about $10,000, but black and Latino families are behind.
“That is one of the greater challenges you see in Dallas,” Asante-Muhahmad said. “There’s great economic inequality across the country in terms of income and wealth, but in Dallas, like in other cities, you find that oftentimes the white populations have much higher income than they do nationally.
“So the disparity in Dallas is even worse than it is found across the country,” he said.
Asante-Muhamad joined KERA to talk about several highlights from the report and what Dallas should do to address them.
What income disparity in Dallas indicates about its economic future
“Increasingly, as we have greater demographic change, the issue of racial economic inequality isn’t the issue of a small population, it’s really the issue of the future of the American middle class. But here in Dallas, that’s already the case. People of color are about 70 percent of the population here in Dallas. So when you have strong racial economic inequality, you’re talking about economic insecurity for the majority of the people.
“It’s not just African-Americans who are below the national income rate. Asian-Americans actually are substantially below the national median income rate. Nationally, Asian-Americans make about $70,000 a year. In Dallas, it’s $55,000 a year. So we see a disparity among people of color that goes across blacks, Latinos and Asians that you don’t see across the country.”
African-Americans in Dallas have a liquid asset poverty rate of about 61 percent; for Latinos, it’s 66 percent; Asian-Americans, 33 percent; whites, 23 percent.
“Liquid asset poverty gets to the more general idea of wealth versus income. Income’s how much you’re pulling in each year. Wealth would be your assets minus your debts. Liquid wealth would be your wealth that wouldn’t include your pension or wouldn’t include the equity in your home, but actual financial resources that you could get access to in case of an emergency or in case of an opportunity.”
How Dallas should begin to narrow the racial wealth gap
“I think, first, it’s being willing to take on the issue and recognize the issue. Oftentimes, people want to say, ‘Well, let’s not talk about things that can divide us.’ If we don’t talk about what is dividing us, we can never figure out how to get back together.
“That’s why we do these reports…to help put some numbers to it and then hopefully to get some consensus or get those who’ve been working on the issue to recognize, ‘OK, these numbers are unsustainable. They are a threat to the future of Dallas’ economy.’ And it’s something that the community has to come together and deal with if you want a strong economy.”