Last week, the Daily Texan ran an interesting article entitled "A Tale of Two Neighborhoods":
The growing diversity of the UT student body has not spurred racial integration in student neighborhoods, census, city and UT records show.
The majority of Asian and white undergraduates living off campus reside in West Campus, while most Hispanic and black undergraduates live in East Riverside.
This trend has intensified in the past 10 years because of a convergence of socioeconomic inequality, disparate living costs in the two areas and alleged discrimination — and some fear it may not change.
The article marshals lots of demographic statistics to support its point that West Campus now, more than ever, draws white and Asian undergraduates while East Riverside draws blacks and Hispanics.
There's no question that West Campus is significantly less diverse than the university's undergraduate student population; blacks and Hispanics, in particularly, are badly underrepresented in West Campus, relative either to Austin's demographic profile or to the University's.
But the article spends a lot of ink on the University Neighborhood Overlay, asserting that this trend toward segregation has "intensified" despite -- or perhaps even because of -- the thousands of new beds that have been added to West Campus since the UNO was adopted in 2004.
Some perspective is in order here.
One point that ought to be made, but was somehow omitted from the article, is that West Campus is significantly more diverse today than in the pre-UNO days.
West Campus is comprised of Census tracts 6.03 and 6.04. Between the 2000 and 2010 Census counts, both tracts added minorities (including non-asian minorities) at a faster rate than nonhispanic whites.
The population count of Census Tract 6.03 rose from 5,273 to 7,793 between 2000 and 2010.
- Nonhispanic whites declined from 75.4% of the population to 65.7%
- Hispanics1 increased from 9.3% to 12.5%
- Blacks2 increased from 1.6% to 2.4%
- Asians3 incrased from 13% to 19.3%
The population count of Census Tract 6.04 rose from 5,199 to 6,496 between 2000 and 2010.
- Nonhispanic whites declined from 70.3% of the population to 59.1%
- Hispanics1 increased from 9.4% to 13.1%
- Blacks2 increased from 2.0% to 2.6%
- Asians3 incrased from 17.3% to 25%
These totals include the population in owner-occupied housing, but since owner-occupied housing contained just 5.0% and 3.2%, respectively, of the population in these two tracts in 2010 (and was not exclusively white), omitting this population would have little affect on the percentages.
Again, it is obvious that blacks and Hispanics are underrepresented in West Campus. But it should be equally obvious that the surge in population permitted by the UNO is reducing the imbalance in diversity, rather than intensifying it. Indeed, focusing on gross population changes, we see that the two census tracts added a total 3,817 residents between 2000 and 2010, only 1,188 of whom were nonhispanic whites. The two tracts added more asians than nonhispanic whites, and almost as many nonasian minorities (1,083) as nonhispanic whites (1,1888). The net result was a much greater percentage gain in the population of blacks and Hispanics (90% and 85.74%, respectively) than in the population of nonhispanic whites (17.47%). The racial balance is not ideal, but it is headed in the right direction, and that's thanks to the new housing supply allowed by the UNO.
The Daily Texan article was less interested in the demographics of West Campus per se than in the demographics of UT undergraduates. Here's its key conclusion about the demographic trend in West Campus:
According to The Daily Texan’s analysis of demographic data sets, more than 40 percent of all white undergraduates lived in West Campus in 2010, as well as 38 percent of Asian undergraduates. Twenty-two percent of Hispanic undergraduates and 15 percent of black undergraduates also lived in West Campus then.
These numbers are significantly higher for whites and Asians than in 2000, when only 27 percent of white undergraduates and 21 percent of Asian undergraduates lived in West Campus. Fifteen percent of Hispanic undergraduates and no black undergraduates lived in West Campus in 2000.
If these statistics are reliable, then the Daily Texan has identified a real phenomenon. White students who live off-campus are roughly twice as likely to live in West Campus as Hispanics who live off campus and more than twice as likely to live in West Campus as blacks who live off campus. Again, though, its not clear that this is "worse" than in 2000 -- after all, according to the DT's "demographic data sets," no black undergraduates lived in West Campus. A rise from 0% to 15% somehow seems like an improvement.
The Daily Texans' numbers seem plausible, but I wish the article had been more specific about the "demographics data sets" it was reviewing. For instance, it cites the 2010 American Community Survey at one point, but the one-year ACS surveys don't have census-tract level data. For census-tract level data, you must use the 2006-2010 ACS survey, which is a rolling sample conducted over a 5-year period. For tracts experiencing rapid change, it is a terribly unreliable source of data on the current state of things. For example, the 2006-2010 ACS estimate of 6.03's total population is 6,173. The 2010 census count for 6.03 was 7,793. Likewise, the 2010 census documented a decline in nonhispanic whites from 70.3% to 59.1% of the population. But the 2006-2010 ACS had the nonhispanic white share at 70.1% (+/- 6.1%).
Why the discrepancies? Because 6.03 added about 2,500 residents in the second half of the decade, and the rolling survey relied on samples taken in 2006, automatically resulting in a drastic undercount, both of new residents in general and the influx of minorities. The 2006-2010 ACS provides a statistical snapshot of West Campus that excludes much of the change wrought by the UNO.
And, of course, because the ACS is a survey, its estimates are just estimates; the margins of error are almost as important as the point estimates.
But I can't tell whether the Daily Texan is relying on the ACS for the West Campus statistics quoted above. It might instead be using the 2000 and 2010 census counts, which tally the number of residents of each age, and making assumptions that residents of a given age group are UT undergraduates. Or perhaps the Daily Texan had access to UT student address records, which would allow for quite precise counts. I don't know. I should know, though, because the article should have disclosed its methodology and data sources more carefully.
1Hispanic or Latino of any race.
2Black or African American, either alone or in combination with another race.
3Asian, either alone or in combination with another race.