Do Investments in Places Benefit People in Poverty? A Case Study of San Antonio's Eastside Promise Zone




Cruz, Monica

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In 2014, President Obama launched the federal Promise Zone initiative to provide tax incentives to distressed urban and rural communities to spur economic development. San Antonio, Texas was one of five communities in the U.S. to receive Promise Zone designation, which targeted a 22 sq. mile geographic area in the city's eastside. This study examines the effects of the Eastside Promise Zone (EPZ) on poverty, employment, median home value and housing cost burden by comparing it to a comparable area in the city that did not receive Promise Zone designation, or non-EPZ. Employing the Longitudinal Tract Database, the study examines socioeconomic factors to measure change over time in the three outcome variables between 1980-2010 in Bexar County (where San Antonio is located), the EPZ, and non-EPZ census tracts used as control areas. The effects of the EPZ are evaluated through a Difference-in-Difference model using 2013 ACS 5-year estimates (pre- EPZ designation) and comparing it to data from the 2018 ACS 5-year estimates (post- EPZ designation). Findings indicate that there was no statistical significance between EPZ and non-EPZ tracts on poverty, median home value and housing cost burden, but the results showed a statistically significant decrease in employment in the EPZ when compared to the non-EPZ tracts after program implementation. Although the Promise Zone designation did not translate into better outcomes when compared to the non-EPZ tracts, both areas experienced a decrease in poverty, and an increase in median home values and educational attainment between 2013-2018. The relative decrease in employment in the EPZ is likely due to stronger economic opportunities in the non-EPZ control area.


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Economic Development, Policy Evaluation, Promise Zone, Public Policy, San Antonio, Urban Planning