Report finds Austin most economic segregation for major metropolitan area

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A report The Martin Prosperity Institute, a Toronto-based economic think tank, issued Monday said Austin has the most economic segregation for a major metropolitan area in the U.S.

According to the report, the segregation in Austin across more areas than just race and ethnicity: It includes segregation of people based on aspects such as educational background and knowledge-based work versus service-oriented work.

One reason Austin is seeing this economic segregation is because it hasn’t demographically changed from its original city layout with race segregates, according to Brandelyn Franks Flunder, director of the Multicultural Engagement Center.

“The master plan in [the 1920s] designed Austin exactly the way that it looks now,” Franks Flunder said. “Austin just hasn’t progressed in a way that shows a difference.”

On the City of Austin website, demographic maps from 2010 show a majority of white residents located in West Austin and a majority of Latino and black residents located in East Austin.

The University is seeing similar disparities, with higher-income students living in areas close to campus, such as West Campus, and low-income students living in farther away places, such as Riverside, Franks Flunder said.

“If you’re having to come from Riverside onto campus, and you, possibly — because of traffic or whatever it is — miss your class, then of course it’s going to affect how you do academically,” Franks Flunder said.

Being further from campus allows students to save money but alternatively prevents them from accessing campus resources, economics senior Aleks Malin said.

“I lived in Riverside initially because I wanted to save money,” Malin said. “But I wasn’t taking part in study groups as much. I would just go to campus one time and wouldn’t go back.”

Sociology professor Javier Auyero said economic segregation is not a new concept, especially to Austin. 

“I don’t think it should be shocking for anybody,” Auyero said. “When you have high income groups of the kind that have moved into Austin and the kind of labor market you have in Austin, inequality is almost inevitable.”

According to Auyero, the lack of resources available to some students limits the quality of the education they can receive, and it translates over with them into the University.

“You see those really stark differences in the classroom,” Auyero said. “It’s something that I, as a professor who teaches first-year freshmen, have to
deal with.”