Austin conjures two parallel images in America’s popular imagination: Glowing descriptions of a “cool,” fast-growing city for the “young and creative” known for internationally famous musical events and Formula One racing compete with portrayals of increasing socioeconomic inequality and residential class, racial and ethnic segregation.
But like many U.S. cities and metropolitan areas, wealth and poverty are booming alongside each other — a thriving, highly unequal technopolis — magnifying the effects of social insecurity and reconfiguring the cityscape. Austin now enjoys the worrisome privilege of having the highest level of economic segregation of any large city in America.
Javier Auyero is a professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. Caitlyn Collins and Katherine Jensen are Ph.D. candidates in sociology at UT Austin. They are authors of the upcoming book “Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City.”