Poverty in San Antonio
Among cities that are most populous in the U.S is San Antonio and it is also the second in high population in Texas. Approximately, the city’s population is 1.5 million with density of 3,393 people per square mile. Its status is that of one of the top growing in the United States. The location of the city is Southwestern region of the US, close to the center of Texas and it is also on southwesterly part of Texas Triangle urban region. With the characteristic of majority of the western American municipal areas, it has a low population in the outskirts of the city while inner metropolitan section still remains as the highest populated ranking twenty fourth among all US metropolitan regions and 3rd in state of Texas.
The history of San Antonio is an interesting one and dates from 1961 when it was given its first name. A voyage of Spanish explorers made a stop at the area, which today is known as city of Antonio thus naming it upon coming across the San Antonio River and Papaya Indians’ settlement within the area (Kelley). Later, the voyagers named it San Antonio to honor St. Antonio of Padua since the day they came into contact with the area was during the feast of St. Anthony, June 13. Therefore the expansion and establishment of the city was to a large part the result of missionary work. Because of this, more immigrants were attracted into the city and a formal government was established by 1731 in the city by a group of families that formed San Fernando de Bexar Villa. The extension of the Mexican into the US, with San Antonio serving as the headquarters begun by Leal Goraz’s reign who declared 100,000 square miles of the Spanish territory.
However, Leal retreated due to bankruptcy and consequently inability of funding his military. This led growth of San Antonio as a Spanish settlement then eventually, Mexican capital of Teja Province. Afterwards, numerous battles followed in the bid of including San Antonio (and larger Texas) into Mexico, while freedom fighters for Texan Independence were on the opposing side. The city of San Antonio and Texas, later after annexation of Texas by the Union in 1845 (Fisher) became part of the United States. The result of Texan annexation was Mexican-American War which eventually left San Antonio’s population to a mere 800 inhabitants (Fisher).
Once the Civil War came to an end, San Antonio prospered into a cattle industry center. On top of this, the city also remained as a frontier city though it has a mixture of culture from both immigrants and migrants who chose to settle in the area after the civil war came to an end giving San Antonio the reputation of exoticness. The opening of the city and its connection to other regions of American society started in 1877 when the first railroad was constructed. The contact with outside world is what made city roads expansion possible and it also lead to modernization. Subsequently, most of the historical buildings within the city were destroyed though some of the historical attractions and sites of the city’s architecture are still visible.
The San Antonio River is a good example of such an attraction as it was formed during the late 1600’s. Though the River has had flooding problems, it is engineered in a manner that mitigates flooding effects as such, formed the River Walk which is a renowned attraction site for tourists. Recently, the river was returned to its original waterway, which stretches for eight miles and as such, connects the city’s downtown to the Spanish mission both of which are tourist attractions as well (Kerr). The River Walk is what forms the main backbone of attractions that are based along it. Therefore, it is lined with shops, bars, restaurants as well as Arneson River theater which is a dynamic attraction taking different forms through the year like light festival during the New Year holiday season, Christmas as well as local music mixer during summer.
The top tourist attraction in Texas, Alamo is as well located in San Antonio’s Downtown. It is at times known as the Alamo City from the mission. Alamo, which is now a museum is the nation’s most toured attraction with over 4 million visitations every year. The historical importance is that of a fortress as well as battle ground for the 1836 Alamo Battle thus making an important aspect of the architecture (Fisher). Therefore, the Alamo is the oldest building in the city. Other buildings that are also with considerable attraction and age include the second oldest hotel in the city, the Fairmount Hotel which was built in 1906. The hotel is also known as the heaviest building as a whole.
The Aztec on the River is another attraction in San Antonio and it was newly renovated along the River Walk and also stands as the Texan movie place which was the original theme. In The McNay Art Museum is also in the city and it is the first modern art museum in Texas. It was established in 1945 and has some of the finest art and gallery in southern region of the US. The reputation of the museum is well established since in the US, it is the only museum with premiere collection of Tobin Collection. Also it has a research library and a building (Stieren Center) for modern display collection which was built by Paul Viguier who is an architect internationally renowned.
The varied and rich architecture of the city is evident in the population as well. From its immigrants and migrants population, the cultural heritage of the city is diverse due to its confluence of varying races and ethnicities that are fused within the structure of the population. Since the early days of the city as a Papaya Indian settlement, the population of approximately 1.5 million has been growing. The US Census in 2010 indicated the population of the city has risen by 16% from the census of 2000 and it was expected it would continue to rise in its diverse racial formation.
From the data, seventy two percent of the population was comprised of white people with a large number being Hispanic whites. Only twenty six percent of white inhabitants were non-Hispanic. The second largest population is Blacks who account for 7% of the population in the city. On the other hand, the Asians account for approximately 2.5% of the population with Native Americans comprising less than 1% of the total population. Native Hawaiians account for 0.1% while 14 percent of the overall population was accounted for by other mixed races. While Hispanic or Latino make up 63% of the population in combined grading, Mexicans account for forty one percent of the city’s population. The Cuban, Puerto Rican and other Latino races account for 0.13, 0.16 and 16.49% of Latino population. Therefore, non-Hispanic races account for only 41.6% of the population in the city (US Census Bureau).
Females, out of the total population in the city account for 51.67% while males are 43.33%. However the bulk of the city’s population is aged between twenty five to thirty four years at 15.54% of total population closely followed at 15.27% by those aged between thirty five to forty four years. The elderly aged 85 and over comprise the least percentage of the population which is 1.18%. Consequently, the median age in San Antonio stands at 31.7% with individuals who are 18 years and above comprising of 71.46% of the total population. Out of these, 37.68% are females while the other 33.79% are males (US Census Bureau).
The income median for the city’s households is at $36.214 with 53,100 as the median income for families living in the cities. However, males have a median income that is higher compared to that of their female counterparts at $30,061 and $ 24,444 respectively. Further, the per capita city income stands at $17,487 in 2000. However, over the years, it has improved and as of 2011, the per capita income in the city was estimated to be $21,356. The increase is reflected as well in the estimated household income which stands at 42, 392. This is not far stretched from the Texas state median income which as of 2001 stood at 49,392. With these incomes, it is estimated the cost of living in the city is way below average taking into consideration that the cost of living stands at 100 while the cost of living in San Antonio is at 88.3%.
The city’s governance, just like the entire city has a distinct history with changes from a form of governance that is mayor alderman to one of representation by commissioner. According to Sanantonio.gov, during span of mayor-alderman governance which started around 1837, a section of the city was represented by alderman, with town council acting as the legislative and administrative body of the city. Due to mixed population nature and influence of the Spanish on a large section of the population, the council meetings of the town were held in English and Spanish.
Later, alderman system was changed to commissioner governance in which case commissioners got elected by universal suffrage in 1915. Following the governance of other US cities, the city also adopted formation council-manager governance in 1951 in a City Charter (Sanantonio.gov). Through the charter, the council of representatives was largely elected. However, in 1957, some amendments were made to the charter which allowed voters to elect representatives on the basis of geographic district. The mayor therefore was and still gets elected at large.
In the current structure of governance, ten districts make up the city which is a measure that ensures the population distribution is equal. Each of the districts is represented by a member of the council to city council elected from districts. The mayor is however elected by the entire city. Council members get elected on 2 year terms and they are also up for possible re-election. There is a limit set at 4 terms however with positions elected on ballots that are non-partisan and in line with the state law. The responsibility of the city includes making decisions within the community with focus on financial growth and economic development of the city, use and development of land, capital improvement projects and basic services provision and efficacy. Currently, the mayor of the city is Julian Castro who is serving the third term and renowned as the youngest mayor in the US top fifty city.
A city manager is in charge of running the day to day activities of the city. He/she serves as the chief executive officer by overseeing execution of the policies passed by the council as well as making provision of professional advice on any issue that might be raised by the council. Thus, the manager is responsible for over thirty seven departments and twelve thousand employees. These include energy department, fire department and police department among others. A director, answerable to the manager is responsible for leading each department, they also ensure department services are delivered in an effective and efficient manner. Apart from the role of department oversight, the manager has the responsibility of administering and drafting the annual budget for the city once it is approved by the council.
With the population that is ever growing, the city has witnessed economic growth, rising levels of poverty, housing problems and leadership that is not committed enough to changing the situation of the city. Even with a military presence that is strong which includes Radolf Air Base, Fort Sam Houston and Lackland Base, the levels of poverty in the city as well as housing problems can be adequately seen from dilapidated structures that are around military bases. Additionally, the state the city falls in (Texas)is ranked among top high poverty states in the nation. The high rate of poverty in the city is largely attributed to the high rate of unemployment in the city which as of 2013 July was 6.5%. However, this is an improvement taking into consideration the unemployment rate the previous year which was 7.1%. Compared to the unemployment rate in the nation of 8.6 in 2012 and in July 2013 of 7.7 using data acquired from US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it can be deduced that the unemployment rate in the city is decreasing. Unemployment decrease however is not an indication that poverty levels are decreasing as well since in essence, it has been on the rise. Specifically the city among others that are in southern part of the US like El Paso and Jackson, “are estimated to have experienced an uptick in concentrated poverty in 2010 with fifty metro areas registering increases greater than the average percentage points” (Kneebone et al. 19). Data from US Census office indicates increase in the poverty levels in the city since 2000.
In 2000, those who were living in poverty in the city included an estimated 193,731 people a number that is equivalent to 17.26% of the city’s entire population. The percentage way higher than that of the Texas city which has 15.37% poverty level and higher than the poverty level of the nation standing at 12.38% (USA.com). The levels of family poverty for the year stood at 39, 514 families which is the equivalent of 13.98 percent of the overall family population. Like the data on population, the poverty levels of families in the city was also higher than that of the state at 11.97% and that of the nation at 9.16% with the total population poverty stood at 239,667 representing 18.60 percent. Still, this was higher than the nation and state poverty rates which were 13.47 and 16.77 respectively. For the period, the poverty levels in families increased at 44,678 families representing 14.97%. Against the nation and state’s family poverty the percentages were 9.86 and 13.17 respectively.
The trend of poverty levels increase was also apparent in 2010 and 2011 data which indicated the 6th year if persistent increase in poverty in the nation and San Antonio (Yen) while effects of global credit crunch were effective at that time, the nation was on the road to recovery. The levels of poverty in San Antonio continued to rise. 249,857 individuals were living in poverty representing 19.4% of the total population. As previous data indicated, the percentage was higher than the national and state percentages at 15.33 and 17.91% respectively. 46,584 (15.02%) San Antonio families live in poverty. Yet, this was still higher than Texas’ rate which was at 13.85% and the national rate which was 11.28% (USA.com).
The economy of the city, in the last couple of years has witnessed change, as it was earlier stated with military installations and automobile companies set up. As a result of this, over 89,000 people have been employed. Such job opportunities and installations offered by varying companies have done little to support the growing population in the city and as such, mitigate poverty spread within the precincts of the city. In actual sense, more people who are in the city live below poverty line. In what is known as concentrated poverty, cases of extreme poverty happen in particular regions of the city and especially for certain races (Mix 5). A high percentage of poverty is mostly seen within the poor races that are in the city where African-American and Blacks lead the pack and followed by the Latinos closely (Macartney et al 1).
Therefore it is highly unlikely that having a large Latino population, the poverty rates in the city are high among Latinos than in other races. While percentages indicate African Americans/Blacks have high poverty levels at 26.8% compared to Hispanic level at 23.2% absolute numbers indicate a scenario that is different as it puts the average number of Hispanics who live in poverty at 192,330 compared to 23,483 among the blacks. Whites have the lowest levels of poverty at 10% followed by Asians at 13.7%. Absolute numbers for these races was 13,992 and 3,796 for Whites and Asians respectively. Other races that recorded low poverty rates included Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who were placed at 16.1% by the data. However, their poverty rate was also found to be considerably higher than that of the other races especially in reference to their number which was one hundred and thirty two individuals. Among the American Indian and Alaska Natives, a similar case was seen with the poverty level rate at 24.8% but with 2,322 individuals in the population of the city (US Census Bureau).
The poverty levels in San Antonio are skewed towards women since there is a high number of women who do not have husbands and they live in high poverty than their male counterparts as well as those married. Fifty four percent of women in families and without husbands live below poverty line compared to nine percent of males without wives and thirty seven of the married couples. The highest female poverty level is between ages 12 to 14 at 31.7% while for males, children who are below the age of 5 years are under the worst poverty case at 31.8%. In San Antonio, 27.8% of the children live below poverty level which is a higher rate compared to that of state level which is 24.2%.
The rising city poverty levels are brought about by a couple of factors. These work together to cause rise in poverty rates among city residents. One such factor is decentralization of employment and the continued residential segregation in the city. Together, these two limit accessibility of jobs for inner residents of the city, leading to their isolation as such trapping them in poverty (Teitz & Chapple 48). In this case, the underlying principle is the fact the economy has been structurally changed; companies in manufacturing have moved operation from the city into the suburbs. Therefore, this has left employees who are low skilled jobless due to the fact they cannot move into the suburbs to search for jobs due to transportation costs and high cost of housing in suburbs which discriminates them out rightly. Companies like AT&T have also established their headquarters in the city and they offer job opportunities to skilled workers only. Because of this, a large percentage of the population is locked out since they have minimal academic qualifications.
Another reason for the increasing levels of poverty in San Antonio is discrimination in the provision of job opportunities. Recently, there has been debate in the city regarding non-discrimination ordinance who purpose they are going to outlaw discrimination that is based on race, sexual and gender orientation. As a matter of fact, “discrimination also plays a role that is indirect in causing poverty as it creates segregation and its concentration attendant effects on poverty as it lowers wages among women, exacerbates problems of incumbent in households that are headed by families and in some cases, it results to public policies like affirmative action which creates a backlash against the minorities” (Teitz & Chapple 43).
Another contributing factor to levels of poverty is semi and low skill that forms the bulk of the population in the inner city. This leads to a disadvantage among the population taking into consideration the economy is very dynamic due to IT and the fact majority of the manufacturing companies move out of inner city into suburbs. While those who are more educated begin small ventures in the city, employment opportunities are provided to only a few individuals skilled enough to access the ventures. It is this shift into service industries from traditional manufacturing that “seem to leave few employment opportunities for the unskilled and semi-skilled except in service sectors that are very low paying” (Teitz & Chapple 54). Missing out on these employment opportunities aggravates the situation for majority of the inner city residents therefore they continue to live in poverty.
Part of the woes experienced in the city is due to housing problems and poverty contributed by a lot of bureaucracy and neglect (Kelley). This is coupled by the internal problems within the city especially in matters of economic development. Among mitigation steps that have been put into the city’s housing and its development agenda as the first to-do list of both local and federal government. Over the years, there have been different mayors in San Antonio making the effort to eradicate the problem with housing that continues to plague the city. One such project was the San Antonio Housing Trust Fund which was involved in construction of middle and low income housing units for the city residents. Yet another project was Vista Verde which lead to relocation of downtown area residents and also begun construction of new houses which the residents got the opportunity to buy at favorable terms (Kelly).
The council not only involves private developers but has gone into talks with banks as well in order to aid in completing the housing projects. This is coupled by the ‘self-sufficiency’ program in which the council makes the attempt to get public housing citizens assistance to find employment. Therefore, this makes it possible for them to move from the public houses to benefit other individuals who are less fortunate.
However, these programs can only be successful if there is a policy put in place which will ensure the poor are able to get employment that is meaningful put into place. Such programs are going to guarantee that the poor will receive an income and this will lead to the overall reduction of poverty rates. The insistence of assisting the poor through city support programs as is the case in the city of San Antonio is a solution that is only temporary to the problem which keeps on recurring.
The starting point will be launching a stimulus program that allows manufacturing industries to set up shop in the city. The annexation of land program in the city that so far has annexed thousands of land acres should give a section of the real estate to companies that can then set industries and provide employment to thousands of jobless citizens. This coupled by creation of more grants and educational programs will make it possible for citizens to gain skilled employment that is meaningful.
It is important as well for the city to diversify its tourism sector in order to encourage more tourists and increase the funding needed for the project. Social impact bond in which investors contribute to the program can impact the society especially convicts, the poor and the old with payment promise with interest by the governance of the city in the event the program succeeds. This will ensure the city gets the capital that is much needed to boost development while also rehabilitating the residents of the city into members who are more productive.
Fisher, Lewis F. Saving San Antonio: the precarious preservation of a heritage. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1996. Print
Kelley, Shannon. “San Antonio Struggles to Solve Severe Housing Problem Poverty”. Los Angeles Times, 1997. Proquest
Kerr, Millie. “Expanded San Antonio River Walk Wows Visitors.” USA Today, 2013 October 3. Web. 3 October 2013
Kneebone, Elizabeth et al. The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s. Brookings, 2011
Macartney, Suzanne, et al. Poverty Rates for Selected Detailed Race and Hispanic Groups by State and Place: 2007–2011. U.S. Department of Commerce. 2013
Mix, Wende. The Geography of Urban Poverty. Buffalo State College, 2008
n.p. “San Antonio, TX Historical Poverty Level Data”. USA.com, n.d. Web. 30 September 2013
n.p. San Antonio Area Economic Summary. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013. Web. 3 October 2013
n.p. “Local Government: Its Past and Present.” Sanantonio.gov, 2011. Web. 3 October 2013
n.p. Texas Politics-Poverty in Texas. University of Texas, 2009. Web. 30 September 2013
Teitz, Michael, B. & Chappel, Karen. The Causes of Inner-City Poverty: Eight Hypotheses in Search of Reality. Journal of Policy Development and Research, 3.3 (1998).
Yen, Hope. “Poverty stuck at 15 percent — record 46.5 million”. Associate Press, 2013 September 27. Web. 30 September 2013