According to current reports by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau, more than 30 of the 100 communities with the lowest per capita income in the United States are in the state of Texas. Communities such as Sullivan City and La Homa, along with many in South Dakota and North Dakota, have per capita income lower than the national average.
Most of these communites have a small population–Sullivan City is under 5,000 and La Homa is just under 12,000–which contributes to its economic vitality. U.S. Census statistics show that these areas have a predominantly Hispanic population, a group which have lower salary averages than other minority groups. Low income on an individual and household basis affects the whole regional economy. A 2010 report by the U.S. Census indicates that only less than one-fifth of the skilled laborers in the construction trade are composed of Hispanics.
One factor that adds to the problem is the public education system in many of these locales. Studies showing correlations between an individual’s education level and economic opportunities is not new information, and Southwest Economy reports that native-born Hispanics in Texas are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attain college education than those living in other states. With the national economy going through a turbulent ride on a daily basis, starting in 2008, job opportunities are becoming harder to find, even in Texas, which during the recession has actually created new jobs while the rest of the nation struggled.
Despite that, economist Pia Orrenius says that the median hourly earnings of Hispanics in Texas have been steady, if not stagnant, rather than declining. Hispanics in other states, however, such as California, earn an average of about $0.80 more than their Texas counterparts due to the higher minimum wage in California.
With the uncertainty facing both national and global economies, those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are getting hit the hardest. As a heatwave rolls across the Southwest, some of the poorer communities along the Rio Grande Valley are feeling the burn moreso than others due to the drought that are affecting the farms and plantations many of the people work for–a sign, perhaps, of a rough road ahead.