folo \ˈfä-(ˌ)lō\ noun. A story that follows up on an earlier report.
Folo Media reports on the challenges and opportunities for vulnerable communities in San Antonio, Texas, one of the most inequitable cities in the United States.
Is San Antonio a land of opportunity or a place of stagnation?
The answer depends a lot on where you live.
San Antonio, Texas is the seventh largest city in the United States, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. But our growth is uneven. Some parts of the city are booming with attractive jobs, stylish houses, strong schools, trendy restaurants. Other parts—some right next to the boom—seem stuck, frozen in time. For some people, San Antonio is a wonderful place to live, get an education, and raise a family. For others, San Antonio is a challenge to overcome.
As a 2016 Bexar County public health assessment put it, our inequality level is “comparable to China and the Dominican Republic.”
According to two recent studies, San Antonio is the most unequal city in the United States. (See here and here.) In the Alamo City, the gap between our richest and poorest communities is wider than in any other urban area in the nation.
With few exceptions, we find that people in San Antonio respond to this news with surprise, even though the local press reports on these studies and even though the problem is one that stretches back for generations. Many also express skepticism: Are you sure? What about Detroit? Or Atlanta? Or even other Texas cities like Houston or Dallas? Surely these places have many more wealthy people than we do, and many more impoverished people. How could we possibly be #1?
Those are fair questions. The data is complicated and arguable. Plus, San Antonio is changing—by both population and annexation—and our economic picture is changing with it. At least one of our historically distressed neighborhoods—the Eastside—appears to be in rapid transition. And to be sure, the data that ranks San Antonio #1 in inequality is a few years old now, and our ranking fluctuates with updated studies.
But look around. Get off the highways and thoroughfares and into the neighborhoods. You don’t need data to be persuaded of a crisis. You just need to know your citywide neighbors.
What you see when you look more closely is that the gap between San Antonio’s rich and poor is not just about income or wealth. It’s about opportunity. Chances in life. What kind of potential future is made possible in one neighborhood versus another.
Grow up on the west, south, or east parts of San Antonio, and you have just a ~6 percent chance of climbing into the top quintile of incomes in the U.S.. Grow up just about anywhere else in the city, and the rest of your life will thank you for it: not only will you earn a better education and higher-paying job, but you’re likely to live 20 years longer than your neighbors a few miles away. That’s right: being born and raised outside of San Antonio’s poorest zip codes can buy you two extra decades of life.
The roots of this balkanized city run deep. The issues driving inequality of opportunity and wealth are complex. The available answers are not easy. But answers do exist, as do chances for improvement in the years ahead.
Folo Media is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization dedicated to bringing focus and urgency to the silent crisis of vulnerable communities in San Antonio. Through a mix of multi-media journalism, partnerships with news outlets, and public events, we strive to enlarge the community of people who care about the future of all of San Antonio.
Folo Media is an editorially independent affiliate of The H. E. Butt Family Foundation. For more information, send an inquiry to info @ folomedia.org.