Texas Is Home to Some of the Worst Economic Inequality in the Country

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The “growing divide between the rich and the poor is increasingly centered on race, ethnicity and education,” an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram explains. Over the last few decades, the huge increase in American workers' productivity has been ignored as wages have stayed stagnant. Texas, unfortunately, is a great example of what that system looks like.

New research conducted at Sam Houston State University determined Texas' make-up of income distribution. Texas is behind only four other states in inequality, all in a country now marked by stark income disparity unseen in almost any other developed country.

“You have a real difference between the lives of some and the lives of others in Texas,” SHSU economics researcher Mark Frank said. “The data for 2011 shows that the top 10 percent earned about 48 percent of all income in the state. The top 1 percent are getting nearly 21 percent of all income.”

The income data comes out after a delay in which it is gathered by the IRS.

“For 2012, I wouldn't be surprised if we cross the 50 percent threshold for the top 10 percent,” Frank said.

That's very bad. More below the jump.Former Texas state demographer and director of the U.S. Census Bureau Steve Murdock told the Star-Telegram that education is the key, and its failure in Texas has a lot to do with race and ethnicity.

Murdock, head of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice, explained of Texas: “When you look at poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics, they are two or three times as high as they are for non-Hispanic whites. Blacks and Hispanic incomes are 60 to 75 percent compared to whites…Historically, education has been among the single best predictors of economic resources – income, wealth and ownership.”

“Education is one of the levelers. I think education has been the factor that brought the Irish up, the Germans up and the Italians up. Getting that minority education rate up is a key. And a lot of it is early childhood education. It's education from the get-go.”

As we know, our state leadership is interested in anything but improving Texas education. They've slashed billions from the education budget, and Rick Perry is currently on a crusade to cut thousands of jobs from Texas universities by making them run more like businesses, valuing professors for dollars they bring into the university rather than their educational abilities.

One might ask, “What about Texas' rapid job growth?” Well, it doesn't mean almost anything for the actual economic wellbeing of Texans.

“Since 1990, the job growth rate has outstripped the nation's by more than 2-to-1. Over the same time, income inequality has been rising steadily,” Dallas Morning News columnist Mitchell Schnurman explained this month. Those jobs are primarily low-wage jobs, and they mostly mean more money for the top 10 percent, certainly not those who get the jobs. It hurts that Texas' right-wing leadership is virulently against raising the minimum wage. This would help the actual Texas economy by allowing more people to spend money commensurate to their output, not just millions going into the bank accounts of the already-rich.

About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it distorts almost every other issue in American politics.

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