Expert Says Even As The Economy Booms, Texas Should Focus On Those Left Behind

Dec 12, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Limited business regulation has led to an influx of large companies and skilled workers in Texas over the past few years. It's contributed to the state's $1.7 trillion economy. But despite massive economic growth, critics say some Texans are left behind.

Steven Pedigo studies Texas’ growth as director of the Urban Lab at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He says that low graduation rates and high levels of poverty are obscured by the state’s overall success.

“If you dive a little bit deeper into the metrics about the types of jobs, the education attainment levels that Texans have, I think what we start to find is a bit of a gap here,” Pedigo says.

Texas needs to invest in its people, places and enterprises to ensure continued economic growth, Pedigo says. One way to do that, he says, is reorganizing high school and vocational programs.

“What are the investments that we need to make in our state here as opposed to putting additional dollars and incentives to companies and people that are outside of the state?” Pedigo says.

But one policy cannot solve all of Texas' problems, especially given the state's size and geographic and human diversity. In rural areas, Pedigo says, the state should focus on developing Texas-based companies. In urban centers, funding should be allocated to help cities increase affordable housing and transportation options.

“If we want to bring urban communities along, if we want to bring rural communities along, it is really about investing back into the places that are these engines,” Pedigo says. “Some of our engines, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, are experiencing this growth so it’s trying to manage it or let it manage us.”

Written by Libby Cohen.