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Mapping Race, Poverty and a Half Century of Change in Dallas

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The other day, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, which is really good at this sort of thing, published an interactive collection of online maps tracking how the city has changed over the past four decades. The whole thing is worth exploring; the way the maps distill a messy and complex history into an easily digestible visual is fascinating and powerful.

History and race, particularly in Dallas, are intimately connected. Perhaps the biggest story of the past half century is the massive influx of Hispanics, who made up just 7.5 percent of the population in 1970 but now make up a plurality (42 percent) of the city's population:Percentage-wise, Dallas' black population has remained fairly constant. In 1970, it was at 24.9 percent. Forty years later, it had barely budged to 24.6 percent. But while their raw numbers didn't change much, the spacial distribution of African Americans did. In 1970, it was as if Dallas hadn't yet learned that racially restrictive real estate covenants had been outlawed by the Supreme Court 22 years earlier. In 2010, the population isn't completely boxed into South Dallas and East Oak Cliff, just mostly. Progress!
The other big theme is socioeconomic. One of the things Habitat tracks here — and Dallas is hardly an outlier — is the astounding increase in single mothers, who all no doubt love their kids but who research says on average don't prepare them as well for academic/life success as two-parent households: 
Then there's poverty, which has been eating at Dallas' core for awhile and has now spread to outlying areas. For all the new luxury apartments going up, for all the talk about gentrification, the story more significant to Dallas' future is probably its failure to check the growth of poverty, which has continued to rise steadily since 2010.

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Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.