Households across Fort Worth — of every race — earned more money in 2022 than in years prior, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. But income disparities between Black and white residents are worsening across the city.
The median household income for Black residents in 2022 was about $40,000 lower than for white residents, according to data from the 2022 American Community Survey. In 2021, that gap was smaller, at $36,774. In 2020, the disparity was $35,665.
“We want to focus on the positive that incomes overall are going up,” Christina Brooks, director of the city’s diversity and inclusion department, said. “But you also want to see a closing of that gap. And to understand why the gap exists in the first place, you kind of have to look back at, historically, who had access to specific jobs that were paying at a higher rate.”
Fort Worth’s white households had a median income of $90,271 in 2022, while Black households had a median income of $50,005. Those income differences translate to poverty levels: 7% of white residents live below the federal poverty line, compared with 19% of Black residents.
The median household income for Fort Worth was $71,527. Three racial groups — Black residents, Hispanic residents, and residents who identified as another racial group not included on the census survey — earned a median income lower than the city median.
Hispanic households had a median income of $64,517. Asian households had the highest median income of any race in 2022, at $92,235. Asian residents were the only minority group that earned more than white residents.
The city is trying several strategies to close the gap between white and minority households, Brooks said. Her department is working with the city’s economic development team, which negotiates with businesses receiving economic incentives, to ensure local residents are hired at an attractive salary. In mid-September, council members approved a tax incentive agreement with Siemens that requires the company to offer a $63,000 average salary.
“We’re not really interested in bringing organizations that would be paying below that median income wage, where people would have to work multiple jobs to afford a nice residence and be in a neighborhood that has high-quality schools,” she said.
The city has also invested federal COVID-19 relief funds into long-term housing projects and small business support, which staff hope will help with family wealth accumulation over time.
Brooks acknowledged that Fort Worth won’t see an overnight improvement from these strategies. Because the gap was created through decades of policy decisions, it will take work across a generation to bridge it.
“But what we can measure right now is the number of companies that have come here with living-wage jobs,” she said. “And what we’ll be looking at over time is, ‘OK, how many of those jobs went to local residents? Or did they bring in residents? And were those wages maintained? Did they adjust for inflation over time?’”