The Changing Face of Poverty Across Dallas

Each dot represents 20 people living in poverty.
Each dot represents 20 people living in poverty.

Recently the Urban Institute created a mapping tool to show how pockets of poverty across the country have changed and expanded over the last 30 years. Using Census data, they placed dots on the map for every 20 people with incomes below the poverty line. Whites are represented in blue, blacks are yellow, Hispanics green, and Asians red.

When looking at Dallas (see screenshot images above), the two most noticeable changes from 1980 to 2010 are 1) How much more green there is on the map and 2) How the pockets of poverty are less concentrated in the city itself and have spread into the suburbs. (Chicago magazine noticed a similar expansion in their city.)

So, yeah, obviously there’s more Hispanic poverty because there are so many more Hispanics in North Texas than in 1980. And there are many more people, period, living in the suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth than there were 30 years ago, so it stands to reason there’d be much more poverty out in the hinterlands too.

But it doesn’t matter that you’re not surprised by either of those facts. What matters is that this map brings into focus one downside of the population boom that’s benefited our region over the last few decades. More people means more poverty, and it means that poverty isn’t just a challenge for the inner-city anymore. Places like Richardson and Irving and Arlington are having to contend with that reality too.

Any solutions we devise for lifting people out of these conditions must confront the wider-spread nature of the problem.


Use the embedded tool below to explore the data for yourself.

(H/T The Atlantic Cities)


  • Neal K

    According to the map, hundreds of impoverished people were living at the runways and terminals of Love Field in 1980.

    • Jason Heid

      Yeah, it was does look like there was some sort of refugee camp at Love Field in 1980.

      They’re dealing with massive sets of data, and as good as our mapping tools are these days, we can’t expect 100 percent precision with the placement of these points. Note also that each dot represents 20 people, so it’s bound to be some compromise point that it generates, since rarely do 20 people live directly on top of one another.

  • Peter Kurilecz

    so how do they define poverty?

  • Peter Kurilecz

    using the poverty line doesn’t give a complete picture. The economist Walter Williams has addressed poverty in the US several times in his columns. here is one example
    “Dr. Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield give us insights in “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor” (9/13/2011). Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K. Ninety-six percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry during the year because they couldn’t afford food.”
    ‘In 1971, only about 32 percent of all Americans enjoyed air conditioning in their homes. By 2001, 76 percent of poor people had air conditioning. In 1971, only 43 percent of Americans owned a color television; in 2001, 97 percent of poor people owned at least one. In 1971, 1 percent of American homes had a microwave oven; in 2001, 73 percent of poor people had one. Forty-six percent of poor households own their homes. Only about 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. ”

  • Mavdog

    GIS mapping such as this places the dots in a scattered pattern within the defined geographical boundaries, which are typically census block groups, or less desireable a census tract (less desireable due to the larger area of the tract v the block).
    The software does not place the dot that is actually where the residence is located.

  • Amy

    2) Perhaps due to the federal court ruling in the early 1980’s regarding “singles only” apartment rentals. Park/NW Highway/Skillman all used to be upper income singles apartments.

  • CSP

    What the heck is “Shamrock”? I’ve never heard of it. I know there’s a Shamrock, Texas in the Panhandle, but down by Cedar Hill?

  • islandtimeisnow

    not true

    people are house poor , as one example
    or auto poor

  • islandtimeisnow

    many cities disperse their sec 8 people into the burbs