The Census and gentrification

Some population trends of interest in Houston.

People of color led Houston’s growth over the last 10 years, but that trend wasn’t reflected across all the city’s historic Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

Census data released earlier this month paints a changing map of Houston’s racial demographics. In some neighborhoods, such as the historically Black Third Ward, the changes are stark — a byproduct of ongoing gentrification. In other neighborhoods, such as Sunnyside and the Near Northside, the shifts are subtle but hint at the beginnings of a similar process.

The data confirms what residents have known for a long time: The changes are nothing new, and the stakes are high, experts say.

“This is a crisis of enormous proportions,” said Assata Richards, director of the Sankofa Research Institute. “It’s not just that people have lost their communities, communities have lost their people. Housing rates have increased, opportunities have decreased and the protections for naturally occurring affordable housing aren’t there.”

Black people now make up just 45 percent of Third Ward, a drop from 71 percent in 2010, according to the census bureau. Both numbers increase about 10 percent if you remove the census tract that houses the University of Houston.

Third Ward saw its Black population drop about 15 percent to 8,045 residents, though the neighborhood’s overall population grew about 35 percent, census data shows. The white population rose about 170 percent, from 1,283 residents in 2010 to 3,465 in 2020. White people make up about 20 percent of the neighborhood’s 17,706 residents.

“It’s like a flood. A hurricane has hit the city, and the flood has washed away African Americans from historic neighborhoods,” said Richards, who lives in Third Ward. “I’ve seen the disappearance of Black people at the parks, at the post office, at the corner store. The places in our community are being reshaped and are beginning to become foreign to me. It has a very disorienting effect. These are my neighbors and family members and people I love.”

The gentrification occurring in Third Ward is happening in other racial and ethnic enclaves throughout the city. Second Ward saw its Latino population drop about 25 percent, from 10,802 residents to 8,111 over the last 10 years. The white population rose to 2,572 from 1,711 residents in 2010, an increase of about 50 percent.

Despite Houston adding nearly 94,000 Latinos over the last decade, almost none of that growth occurred in the East End, Near Northside or Northside, traditional Latino strongholds. Nearly every census tract in those areas lost at least some portion of its Latino residents, regardless of whether there was an increase in white residents.

That’s why experts say the issue is larger than just a matter of white people moving into a neighborhood historically occupied by a particular racial or ethnic group.

In fact, the white growth in Third Ward and other areas inside Loop 610, such as the East End and the Heights, is mostly an anomaly. The white population in Houston decreased by about 30 percent over the last decade, though Houston’s overall population rose by 10 percent. That growth was driven almost entirely by people of color and not limited to neighborhoods in the urban core.

“What happens when it becomes more profitable for a landowner to sell than it is to rent is that the people who were long-term renters end up displaced,” said Dr. Quianta Moore, of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “Some look at gentrification as neighborhood revitalization and say that’s not a bad thing, but regardless of the definition you use, it’s always problematic when people are forcibly displaced from their neighborhood.”

“When you have economic factors that drive and uproot people out of a neighborhood … there’s a negative psychological harm and increased morbidity and risk of death,” Moore said, citing “Root Shock,” a 2004 book by Dr. Mindy Fullilove.

The main problem here is real estate prices rising at too fast a rate, which makes a lot of older and historic neighborhoods, including and especially Black and Latino neighborhoods, unaffordable for current residents. I’d love to see more stories that go into the policy changes that could be made to try to reverse, or at least slow down, these trends. Denser development and more investment in transit would surely help, but I don’t claim to be smart enough to know the particulars. I’ve seen much of Inner Loop Houston transform from a place where anyone could live to a place where most people can’t afford to live in my thirty-plus years here. There’s been a lot of positive change, in terms of food and amenities and arts, but we need that to be the reality for all of Houston.

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7 Responses to The Census and gentrification

  1. Manny says:

    Lower-income white neighborhoods have also had their long-term residents displaced by new people.,_Houston

    It is not just a black and brown issue.

  2. Fritz Kraut says:


    Speaking as a kraut, we come in white (Weißkohl) and red (Rotkohl). I get sour every time I read about that “people-of-color” crap. Also, as soon as I step off the Lufthansa back from from Frankfurt, I somehow become a Caucasian. I resent that too. I mean: What in the world! Intro to Geography anyone?

    Cauca isn’t even a nationality; nor is the Caucasus located in Europe. Periphery at best.

    And what if my partner-in-life were the product of an Ami with slavery genes having gotten tegether with a German Fräulein for you know what? … For what men and women have done for eons starting with the archetypical Adam and Eve or else we wouldn’t be here? Isn’t she at least half a kraut too? Half-white? Or half-black as suits the occasion?

    What if she was born in El Paso with a German Bundeswehr rocketman father and a borderline Mexican? Is she a German Texan now (the group you identity-obsessed people bunch together with Anglos), a Hispanic, or a so-labeled “person of color”?

    Would we now qualify as an invasive gentrifying species in the Third Ward? How about the Second? That okay?

    What if her ancesters were Apaches desceded from migrants that walked across the Bering Straight from Asia into Alaska and then trecked down and settled in the Chihuahuan Desert?

    Why can’t she be all or any of these, or just an idiosyncratic human being? A one-of-a-kind woman you love. Einzigartig. Or sui generis, in plain Latin.

    Final question: Are rednecks not persons of color, too? Or do they have to be Latin-American to qualify?

    And what about socialites or socialists with a subscription to a tanning salon?

    The latter, by the way, — the socialists — would be considered red in Europe regardless of the dosage of skin-cancer-promoting irradiation they receive.

    Usage note: Ami = coll. German for Amerikaner generally, esp. U.S. serviceman stationed in the FRG post-WW2 & Cold War period. Rot = the color red, but also an adj. denoting a political orientation, i.e. on the left of the traditional political spectrum (Social-Democrats, Socialists, Communists).

  3. J says:

    Denser development means fewer trees (hotter neighborhoods) and probably more luxury towers owned by drug cartels and oligarchs. So we need comprehensive planning considering all impacts and outcomes if we are going to do high density.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    In my neighborhood, the construction of Dian Street Villas has begun. There are a lot of houses on the bordering streets for sale. None of the righteous White Privilege crowd want to live around the Roaches.

    Although, I have reconsidered. Many of the people really see themselves as good. They feel like they are entitled to have the things they desire, because of their goodness. They don’t understand that they are racists.

  5. J says:

    Zillow shows 4 houses for sale in the vicinity, and another four that have pending contracts. Not anything unusual. More misinformation and misrepresentation from JH. Again, not unusual.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    J, I am glad you are fact checking with zillow. There are houses for sale on my street that have been for sale for several months. Come and look at the signs. Compare to the number of signs for sale as you move away from the Villas.

    J, I am glad that you are defending racists. Biden, is of course, a racist. The Mayor of Houston was convicted by HUD of discrimination in housing, but of course, nobody is concerned about that.

    Stayed tuned to the TV for your next set of orders.

  7. Política comparada says:


    Why Democrats Are Losing Texas Latinos …

    The party assumes people of color will turn the state blue. But most Tejanos consider themselves white. And more are voting Republican.


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