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Post Economic Segregation in Texas Cities
Created by John Eipper on 02/25/15 2:05 PM

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Economic Segregation in Texas Cities (Randy Black, USA, 02/25/15 2:05 pm)

In his post of 25 February, Paul Levine asked me why four Texas cities have been listed among the most economically segregated in the US.

I have no clue. To extemporize a bit, part of me wants to defend Texas and say, "It ain't so." Another part also wants to understand the bias in the report by the two renowned Toronto researchers.

Clearly, poor inner city residents of Chicago, New York, Detroit and other northern locales live in ghettos far more segregated by language, ethnicity and income. There is simply no comparison to even the poorest of neighborhoods in Texas. This is my view.

I've traveled Texas from border to border--top to bottom.

Certainly, the wealthy live where they can afford to live as do the middle classes and the poor. This is not news, at least not to the extent that the Toronto research might imply.

It's pretty obvious that if you can afford to live in an expensive home, one that you build from the dirt up, you're not going to build it in a slum.

Ditto the poor who may rent or own a smaller, less expensive dwelling. Eso sí que es. On that note, I was in an upscale part of Dallas last Saturday visiting my mom, 92, and "still alive and kicking" (her words).

After visiting mom, feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to drive to a nearby neighborhood, only about two miles south of mom's solidly middle-class home, to a less-than-steller house that I lived in about 1982-1986.

Back then, I was not as economically comfortable as we are now. I was struggling and it was what I could afford.

The unexpected benefit was that I made friends with a lot of illegals during that period since they were my neighbors. I have occasionally kept up with one of those neighbors off and on over the past 30 years. More on him later.

It's an area of Dallas known as "Little Mexico." I purchased a humble, frame duplex (pictured) at the height of the economic boom. This little frame duplex, 400 square feet each side, set me back $62,000! It was a dump really. It needed leveling, had a bullet hole in the living room floor, cracked glass and the water heater leaked.

I lived in one side and rented out the other. Each side had a living room, breakfast nook, kitchen, tiny bathroom and bedroom plus two closets. There was an electric heater in the wall for winter and two window AC units for the Texas summers. The washing machines sat on the side porch in the weather and under the eave.

The neighborhood was nearly 100% folks from south of the border. They were bricklayers, ditch diggers, house maids, yardmen, dishwashers, mechanics, and a few retirees who could not afford to move when the demographics of the neighborhood changed.

Saturday nights on Moser Avenue were exciting. About midnight throughout the spring, summer and fall, having spent Saturday evenings drinking in their front yards, playing their boom boxes loudly, watching the children play in the streets, and generally enjoying their ability to do so, by midnight, they started shooting holes in the night sky with their pistols.

The local police substation was generally too busy with other more serious matters such as nearby bar fights and liquor store holdups to bother with anyone on Moser Avenue. It was surreal.

What goes up must come down. The sounds of the lead bullets bouncing off my roof was disconcerting to say the least. Eventually, my economic situation improved. I moved north.

I economically segregated myself in a residential sense, as the Canadian professors might say. By about 1986, the homebuilding boom had cratered in the Dallas market. Left behind were tens of thousands of overpriced homes and condos in foreclosure.

The same $62,000 that had a few years earlier gotten me only a one-bedroom frame hovel in Little Mexico, now got me a newish two-bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2-story, 1,200 square foot luxury condo in North Dallas's most expensive zip code. I even got two reserved parking slots in the secured underground garage. I bought what had been a $125,000 condo a few years earlier out of foreclosure for only $62,000. The mortgage company was so desperate to unload it, she even offered me a second one at the same price. I declined and settled for the one. It even had two fireplaces, one in the master bedroom.

The first Saturday afternoon after I moved in, I looked out from my balcony at a swimming pool and hot tub full of bikini-wearing flight attendants. Everyone was smiling and laughing. No more bullets on my roof at midnight and wall-to-wall blondes as a bonus. Life had definitely taken a turn for the better.

Two upsides of my slumlord years in Little Mexico: My Spanish improved immensely and I watched some of my neighbors improve their own situations over the following years. One of them I mentioned earlier. Juan waded the Rio Grande near Presidio, Texas from Chihuahua State in the early 1980s when he was 17. When I met him, he was patching tires at a nearby tire and auto repair shop. I offered English lessons and he cut my lawn.

After he had cut my lawn, we'd sit on my front porch, I would coach his English, we'd both drink beer and he'd tell me about his life near Ojinaga, a business community across from Presidio. He was about 20 years old by then and revealed that he had a 17-year-old wife and toddler back home. This meant that he'd married her when she was about 14.

He spoke hopefully of bringing her to Dallas. A couple of years later, shortly before I moved north, and he showed up to cut my lawn one afternoon and to introduce me to his wife and son. About four years went by. I drove through the old neighborhood. The tire and auto repair store now had a sign that proudly said, "Juan's Excellent Tire and Auto Repair" in Spanish and English. His auto bays were full and there were cars waiting for service.

We reminisced and he revealed that he too had moved into a real home, not as far north, but just far enough that he was not being showered with lead bullets on Saturday nights anymore. The last time I spoke with him several years ago, he owned a chain of muffler shops scattered across East Dallas and was a grandfather several times over.

JE comments: A great immigrant success story. WAISers know that I prefer the more neutral "undocumented" over "illegals."  And it's not just me:  the former term is now the journalistic norm in the US.

I'm not very familiar with Dallas, but Houston's economic segregation is an interesting case.  There are pockets of great prosperity, the "Villages," which function as semi-independent enclaves within the larger city.  I don't know if these were counted as part of the Toronto study.

Randy Black attached a photo of his old house.  Slap some white paint on the porch, and it's a fine abode.

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