Race and Place: Determinants of Poverty in the Texas Borderland and the Lower Mississippi Delta

  • Joachim Singelmann
  • Tim Slack
  • Kayla Fontenot
Part of the International Handbooks of Population book series (IHOP, volume 3)


In the United States, poverty is place based. Nonmetro areas have substantially higher poverty rates than metro areas. Poverty is also regionally based: the two poorest regions in the United States are the Mississippi Delta and the Texas Borderland. Most counties in these two regions have poverty rates twice as high as the U.S. national average; many of those counties have been persistently poor (i.e., they have had poverty rates exceeding 20% for the past three decades); and over one half of the highest poverty counties are located in the Delta and the Borderland. Two key characteristics set the two regions apart: first, blacks make up the social minority in the Delta, whereas the social minority (which is often the demographic majority) in the Borderland are Latinos. And second, poverty in the Delta has existed in the context of substantial population losses, while poverty in the Borderland exists despite substantial population growth. Using multivariate statistics, we develop and test a model to analyze four sets of factors found previously to affect poverty: economic structure, demographic structure, human capital, and metro-nonmetro residence. We show that the correlates of poverty differ by ethnicity and race. Positive net migration which tends to be a proxy for economic development has not been a pathway out of poverty for Latinos. The employment rate of blacks and Latinos has a strong depressing effect on their rate of poverty, whereas no such effect exists for whites. Family structure matters far less for Latinos compared to blacks and whites; for the latter two population groups, single female-headed households have substantially increased poverty. In sum, the chapter demonstrates the importance of targeting poverty-intervention programs to specific demographic groups.


Poverty Rate Poverty Threshold Metro Area Delta Model Black Poverty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This is a revised version of a paper presented at the XXVI IUSSP International Population Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, September–October 2009. This project was supported by the National Research Initiative (NRI) of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development Program, Grant #2006-35401-17432. Dudley L. Poston, Jr., and Rogelio Saenz from Texas A&M University were part of the grant and provided very helpful comments. We thank Huizhen Niu of the Agricultural Economics Geographic Information Systems (AEGIS) Lab. in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, LSU AgCenter, for her assistance in developing the maps presented in this paper and used to diagnose spatial effects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joachim Singelmann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tim Slack
    • 3
  • Kayla Fontenot
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of DemographyThe University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB)BerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of SociologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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