The stark reality of San Antonio’s entrenched poverty is not news. San Antonio has long been cited as one of the most economically segregated cities in the country, with high poverty rates and low education outcomes particularly prevalent in the Hispanic and black communities, which constitute a majority of the city’s 1.5 million residents. This reality came into even sharper focus in fall 2019 when data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed San Antonio had the highest percentage of people living in poverty among the nation’s 25 most populous metropolitan areas.

While the city and local economy continue to grow robustly, a visible disconnect exists between the opportunities enjoyed by the city’s better educated, more gainfully employed residents and the people who struggle to get by in low-skill, low-wage jobs, many caught in a cycle of generational poverty.

After the census data was released last year, Rivard Report editors and reporters agreed to deploy every member of the editorial staff to address the issue by reaching out to people who allow us to tell the story from a human perspective rather than through statistics. This article is the first in a series of weekly stories exploring economic segregation in San Antonio, the barriers to overcoming it, and possible paths forward.


PART ONE

Poverty Is a Storyline Binding Generations and Dividing a City

BY SHARI BIEDIGER

Gabriella Pansza is taking steps to make sure her children overcome the economic disadvantages she experienced as the child of a single mother who didn’t always have stable housing. Her youngest daughter is growing up in a house with both parents who hold full-time jobs. Yet the family is among more than 380,000 people in the San Antonio metropolitan area who live below the poverty line.

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PART ONE: EXTRA

Job Training, Legal Help, Daycare: New City Report Looks at Tackling Poverty

BY IRIS DIMMICK

In the wake of the U.S. Census Bureau report showing more than 15 percent of the metropolitan area’s residents lived in poverty, City of San Antonio officials dove deep into the data and recently produced a report containing 15 policy recommendations – some broad in scope and some specific – for tackling a problem that has plagued the city for generations.

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PART TWO:

Past Housing, Zoning Practices Contribute to Today’s Housing Gap

BY IRIS DIMMICK

Ema Avila, her husband, and two small children moved into their new three-bedroom home at the end of November after spending two months helping crews from Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio build it. Even though homeownership is a proven way to build wealth and economic opportunity, low-income families like Avila’s historically have been sectioned off through lending practices such as redlining and city planning rules. Consequently, they have been kept away from wealthier neighborhoods with better schools, infrastructure, food options, and health care systems.

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PART TWO: VOICES

One Map, One Plan: How to Build a San Antonio That Works for All of Us

COMMENTARY BY JIM BAILEY

Between white flight, historical redlining, the Federal Highway Program, exclusionary zoning, and the mortgage interest deduction, San Antonio has created such a finely gradated system of segregation and inequality of wealth-building opportunity that any longtime San Antonio resident can likely tell you how much someone makes by what neighborhood they live in. Alamo Architects’ Jim Bailey has a plan to change all that.

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