Local Government

When It Comes to Poverty, Dallas Is World Class

There are more people living in poverty in Dallas today than there are people living in Plano.

Read Robert Wilonsky on Dallas’ epic-scaled poverty problem. Mull for a minute on this one, scathing fact: there are more people living in poverty in Dallas today than there are people living in Plano. Take a second to pursue the stat box in the article that shows how the problem of poverty is concentrated in the south of the city, but also spread throughout the city – every council district has people living in dire poverty. Remind yourself that Dallas leads the nation when it comes to income inequality by neighborhood.

Then read this set of paragraphs a few times over:

When the childhood poverty issue was raised two years ago, “people were shocked,” Montoya told me. “They wondered: ‘When did this happen?’ And they didn’t keep their eye on the ball.”

Yet, two years after Rawlings started lamenting the city’s “barbell economy,” all we have to show for our hand-wringing is a poverty task force, because that’s the one thing Dallas City Hall does well. See: domestic violence, education, homelessness, Fair Park. And in the end, they’ll propose a proposal, even if peer cities across the country found a solution to what ails us years ago. It’s the arrogance of the so-called world-class city: Thanks, but we’ll do it our way.

There are a lot of things we could blame for poverty in Dallas, but Wilonsky really nails something here. At the end of the day, there is a bizarre arrogance that cripples this city: a myth of exceptionalism – Dallas as the self-made city-on-a-hill. We talk about Dallas’ boldness, of its penchant for dreaming big dreams. Every new city initiative is sold on the promise of Dallas’ glorious, soon-to-come future, as if the city were careening on a path towards some divine civic salvation for which Dallas has been forever predestined.

The truth is Dallas is already mostly what it was always meant to be and will always be unless these latest poverty numbers provide a wake-up call. Dallas is a city managed and governed to be a fine place to live if you have a little money, can afford a house in a decent neighborhood, can buy nice cars and keep them well-maintained, can send your kids to private school, eat in all the great new restaurants, enjoy Sunday afternoons at the Arboretum followed by Mambo Taxis in Highland Park Village, treat yourself to some Botox when your face begins to sag, attend performances in top-notch arts venues, and golf on world class links.

But it is also a city that continuously fails to adequately support or maintain every arena in which life touches the public sphere – transit, schools, public safety, infrastructure, community cultural and educational programs, public parks and facilities. Sometimes that ineptitude can look like inaction, or endless bickering among interest groups, or political dysfunction, but underlying it all is a kind of arrogance that has long been woven into the mentality that has dominated Dallas’ political and philanthropic climate.

In Dallas, “world class” is a euphemism for self-delusion. It is a motto for those who gleefully wear blinders that allow them to see only visions of progress, and not the fact that what makes this city truly exceptional is the scale to which those who can’t afford the vision of the sweet Dallas life are left to their own miserable fate.


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  • Greg Brown

    Hey, at least we have two lilly-white bridges for the poor folks to look at.

  • DubiousBrother

    Every person that is here illegally and working is taking a job away from someone who is not illegal – this has hit the Black community the hardest.
    Every illegal person that is being paid in cash is showing no income which affects the “poverty” numbers – maids, nannies, lawn people…
    Millions of dollars each year are being taken out of our economy and sent back to Mexico by the illegal workers here which is good for Mexico but bad for Dallas.

  • JamieT

    Let me see if I can work through the math on this one: there are more people living in poverty in Dallas today than there are people living in Plano. In other words, a very high percentage of the people living in Dallas today live in poverty. What happened to all the people NOT living in poverty in Dallas today? What does this remind me of?

    Ah, yes: the Obamacare death spiral. Dallas has gotten progressively poorer relatively because a) opportunities to not be poor have located themselves elsewhere and people followed them; b) not poor people who were able to have chosen to live elsewhere, for any number of reasons, regardless of where they work; c) both.

    It seems to me that doing many things – telling them how to live, redistributing their income – to the not poor people still living in Dallas in order to make the poor people less poor could easily exacerbate the problem, driving even more not poor people and their taxable and disposable incomes out of Dallas and into pastures they find greener, accelerating the death spiral.

    So perhaps instead of hectoring those not poor people yet to flee Dallas a more constructive effort might lie in trying to discover why so many people don’t want to live here and what might be done to change their minds.

  • Justsomeguy

    This article went out of its way to not give us the overall ratio of people in Dallas living in poverty or to compare that to other similar sized cities.

  • Murf the Surf

    The sense I get from your advertisers is that very few of your readers care about this issue. You are trying to have it both ways. A magazine that does feature stories on things like The Ten Most Spectacular Bathrooms in Dallas Mansions (I made that one up) hardly seems concerned with the issue of poverty. Ewwww.

    • loansta

      Libtard journalists and intelligence are like oil and water – they do NOT go together. Libtards contradict themselves on every topic imaginable. IE: “obamacare is good for ALL Americans….ohh wait, except for the creators of it…not them.”

      • cipher

        Yep, blame the libtards. And Obama. Because Benghazi.

  • Corky v Luxembourg

    I thought this was a joke piece at first. There are NOT more people living in poverty in Dallas than living in Plano. Unless you consider living in poverty making less than $30,000/yr. Then again, if those in “poverty” have followed the path laid out by LBJ then they have 6 kids living off that money. The only miserable person is the socialist cry baby who wrote this pathetic piece. “left to their own miserable fate,” Miserable? Go to India. Go to Vietnam. Look at real poverty and real misery then ask yourself what perverse socialist disincentives to work and get ahead lead to their “miserable fate.”

  • JJ Smith

    “Take a second to pursue the stat box in the article…” Since I didn’t have to go in search of it or chase it down, I will assume the writer meant “peruse.”

  • Woodrow Wildcat

    You don’t need private schools or have to hang out with Parkies, thank you very much.

  • Mary Williams

    Some info from another article:
    …homelessness in Dallas increased 21 percent over the past year thanks to a combination of high rates of poverty and shortages of affordable housing.
    •Dallas has the highest number of people living 185 percent below the poverty line of any American city and the second highest number of people living 100 percent below the poverty line.
    •Dallas’ median income has declined since 1989.
    •Over half of Dallas households make less than $50,000 per year, and 28.6 percent make less than $25,000.
    •Less than 20 percent of jobs are accessible by transit in less than 90 minutes, and more than 70 percent of HUD assisted properties are unaffordable when housing and transportation costs are combined.
    •Over 27,300 residents live in poverty despite having full-time employment.
    •Compared with other Texas cities, Dallas has the highest percentage of individuals without a high school diploma and the lowest percentage of residents who hold college degree.
    •48 percent of single mothers in Dallas live in poverty.
    •Five zip codes in southern Dallas, west Dallas, and northwest Dallas have teen birth rates similar to Burkina Faso, the Gambia, and Somalia.
    •38 percent of Dallas children live in poverty, 20 percent have no health insurance, 28 percent have inadequate food and nutrition, 160,000 children are obese, and 60,000 have asthma.