Dallas vs. Suburbia: The City’s a Winner

For those who worry about Dallas turning into another Newark, there’s encouraging news from the nation’s leading think tank, the Brookings Institution. Brookings senior fellow Richard Nathan has produced a study showing that Dallas is one of the few cities in America that suffers fewer “hardships” than its suburbs. In a city like Newark, for instance, living conditions are so bad that Newark residents are compelled to floe from the troubled city to the much nicer suburbs. In Dallas, according to his study, conditions are actually better in the city than in the suburbs, so the temptation to flee isn’t great.

Nathan and associate Charles Adams examined six factors, which they viewed as “hardships.” They are unemployment, education, income, crowded housing, poverty and the portion of dependent (the very young or the very old) citizens in the local population. (School busing wasn’t considered as a factor.) Dallas and Houston are among ten cities, out of 55 major metropolitan areas examined, which have fewer hardships than their suburbs. The reverse is true with Fort Worth, which had more problems than its suburbs. Newark’s problems, for instance, were more than four times worse than those of its suburbs.

Compared with the 54 other central cities, Dallas ranked eighth nicest, Houston 16th and Fort Worth 24th. The worst central city is Newark, followed by St. Louis, New Orleans, and Gary, Indiana. Among the suburbs, Fort Worth had the 22nd nicest, followed by Dallas suburbs, 25th, and Houston’s 42nd. The nicest suburbs were near Birmingham, New Orleans and Salt Lake City.

Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston enjoy one major advantage – they politically control their metropolitan areas. Their populations are large enough to outvote suburbanites in county or hospital district elections – giving them control of two arms of government which deal with hardship cases and the indigent. By contrast, Newark comprises only 20 percent of its metropolitan area population, so suburbanites can effectively use politics to keep the problems pent up in Newark, and there is little hope that Newark can ever regain control over its own fate.

Dallas recently has shown up in one other interesting study, this one published by The New York Times, drawn from U.S. Census Bureau figures. The chart, above, compares Dallas’ spending with that of other major cities on education, higher education, welfare, health and hospitals. New York City is the most prolific spender in every category.


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