Texas 18th District
Within its vast bounds, Houston contains income and wealth disparities as striking as any city in the United States, the product of an expanding city with dynamic economic growth, a high rate of immigration, and the absence of centralized planning. The contrast is most obvious at the edge of Houston’s gleaming downtown. Just blocks from the Heritage Plaza, Pennzoil and Bank of America buildings, and the sports complexes for baseball’s Astros and basketball’s Rockets are slums where many African-Americans and Mexican-Americans live in unpainted frame houses with cracks wide enough to let in Houston’s humid, smoggy air. But the contrasts are less obvious as one moves outward from Houston’s historic center.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Half a century ago, Houston had a Third World economy. It was a low-skill producer of basic commodities, where a few got rich and many lived near subsistence level. Since then, Houston has gained a high-tech economy offering myriad opportunities and a wider range of economic outcomes. It has also greatly expanded its international trade. The Port of Houston brought in 225 million tons of cargo in 2008, the second most of any port in the United States. Many of Houston’s blacks and Hispanics have moved to comfortable middle-class neighborhoods. In 2007, Hispanics for the first time outnumbered Anglos in Harris County, which has grown 16% since 2000. While the city has diversified economically, oil is still king. The city was shielded in 2008 from the recession, with 70% of the city’s economic growth that year coming from the energy industry, but the drop in oil prices in early 2009 reduced local jobs. The city also suffered from the September 2008 devastation of Hurricane Ike, though skillful management by local officials and a last-minute turn of the storm away from the city limited casualties.
The 18th Congressional District of Texas contains Houston’s downtown and the African-American and Latino neighborhoods immediately south toward Loop 610. It has two spokes running out beyond Loop 610—one is northeast between the Eastex Freeway and Beaumont Highway and then south to near Jacinto City and Galena Park, and the other is northwest between the Northwest Freeway and Hempstead, then heads east to include George Bush Intercontinental Airport. African-Americans made up 38% of the district’s population in 2007, a drop from previous years, while the Hispanic population continues to grow, increasing to 42%. This and the 30th District in Dallas are the two most heavily Democratic districts in Texas.