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City Demographer Sees Racial, Political Shifts in Austin

In 2008, the City of Austin's demographer Ryan Robinson compiled a list of the Top 10 trends in Austin’s dynamic demographic makeup. Five years later, he says each of those trends has continued to play out.

Minority communities

In 2005, Austin became a majority-minority city – meaning no single ethnic group held a majority of the population – but Robinson said he was surprised that the white population hasn’t dropped as markedly as he’d anticipated in 2008.

Since then, Austin’s African-American population has continued to be the sole one to decline. Many have opted to move to suburbs like Pflugerville or Round Rock. Robinson says “black flight” from urban areas is happening throughout the nation, changing the political landscape of many cities.

Hispanic populations continue to rise dramatically. He found that Hispanic households were becoming increasingly concentrated around lower East Austin and the Dove Springs and Saint John neighborhoods.

Austin’s Asian populations – namely Indian, Vietnamese and Chinese – continue to see rapid growth, which Robinson says primarily stems from the area’s booming tech industry.

Rising Cost of Living

One constant in Robinson’s observations is housing costs. They’ve continued to rise since 2008, he said.

“The urban core has become so much more expensive,” Robinson said. “Not only do you have that socio-economic shift, but along with that you get a racial pattern, as well.”

This dispersion, Robinson said, has also given the Austin Independent School District difficulty in maintaining consistent enrollment numbers across schools, which will be a challenge moving forward.

“AISD is going to have the greatest challenge of trying to provide for parts of its district that are growing rapidly,” Robinson said. “At the same time, there will be parts of the district seeing a decrease in school-age enrollment.”

A Changing Electorate 

By 2008, Austin was becoming increasingly segregated along socio-economic lines. Affluent residents were migrating away from the urban center to the hills west of the city. This dichotomy has played out in significant ways, like making Austin more politically divided as voting mapsshow.

“We’ve always thought of ourselves as a blueberry floating in tomato soup, meaning Travis County has historically always voted Democratic,” Robinson said. “You can now see a western piece of the county where precincts are increasingly voting Republican. It’s still a blueberry, but it’s got a piece scalloped off.”

You can read the rest of Ryan Robinson's Top 10 demographic trends online.

Syeda Hasan is a senior editor at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @syedareports.
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