What Is Considered The Armpit Of Texas?

The Lone Star State is known for its wide open spaces, cowboy culture, and larger-than-life attitude. However, not all parts of Texas are created equal. Some areas are known to be less desirable than others, leading people to bestow the dubious nickname of “the armpit of Texas” upon them. If you’ve heard the term and wondered what region it refers to, read on to learn more.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Lower Rio Grande Valley, specifically the cities of Brownsville, McAllen, and Harlingen, are often referred to as the armpit of Texas due to high poverty and crime rates in the area.

In this comprehensive article, we will dive deep into the history, economy, and statistics behind the Lower Rio Grande Valley region to understand why it has earned a reputation as the armpit of Texas. We will also look at counterarguments from supporters who say the region is making progress. By the end, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the debate around what is or isn’t the armpit of the Lone Star State.

Defining the Lower Rio Grande Valley

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a region located in the southernmost part of Texas, known for its unique geography, vibrant culture, and diverse flora and fauna. This region encompasses several counties along the border with Mexico and is often referred to as the “armpit of Texas” due to its shape and location.

Location and Major Cities

The Lower Rio Grande Valley stretches along the Rio Grande River, which forms the border between Texas and Mexico. It covers an area of approximately 4,000 square miles and includes several major cities and towns, including McAllen, Brownsville, and Harlingen.

McAllen, the largest city in the region, is known for its thriving retail industry and vibrant arts and culture scene. It is home to the La Plaza Mall, one of the largest shopping centers in Texas, and hosts the annual McAllen International Music Festival, attracting renowned artists from around the world.

Brownsville, located near the mouth of the Rio Grande River, is the southernmost city in Texas. It has a rich history dating back to the Spanish colonial era and is known for its historic downtown district, which features well-preserved buildings from the 19th century.

The city is also home to the Gladys Porter Zoo, a popular attraction boasting a diverse collection of animals.

Harlingen, situated in the heart of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, is a major transportation hub and economic center. It is home to Valley International Airport, which serves as a gateway to the region, and the Harlingen Medical Center, a leading healthcare facility in the area.

History and Demographics

The Lower Rio Grande Valley has a rich history shaped by its proximity to Mexico and its role as a border region. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, with evidence of indigenous settlements dating back to prehistoric times.

In more recent history, the region was influenced by Spanish colonization, Mexican independence, and the establishment of the United States-Mexico border.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is known for its diverse population, with a mix of Mexican, American, and indigenous cultures. The majority of residents in the region are of Hispanic or Latino descent, contributing to the vibrant cultural heritage of the area.

Spanish is widely spoken, and traditional Mexican cuisine and customs are prevalent throughout the region.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the Lower Rio Grande Valley was estimated to be around 1.4 million people in 2020. The region has experienced steady population growth in recent years, driven by factors such as economic opportunities, a favorable climate, and a low cost of living.

Poverty and Unemployment

When it comes to the armpit of Texas, poverty and unemployment are two major issues that contribute to the less desirable reputation of certain areas. Let’s take a closer look at the statistics and factors that contribute to this situation.

Poverty Rates

One of the key factors influencing the negative perception of certain areas in Texas is the high poverty rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in certain regions of Texas can be significantly higher compared to the state average.

Lack of access to quality education, limited job opportunities, and the absence of affordable housing contribute to the perpetuation of poverty in these areas.

For instance, in the city of Brownsville, Texas, the poverty rate stands at a staggering 30.6%, which is almost double the national average. This means that nearly one-third of the population in Brownsville struggles to meet their basic needs on a daily basis.

Low Educational Attainment

Another contributing factor to the armpit reputation is the low educational attainment in these areas. Limited access to quality education can hinder economic growth and perpetuate poverty. According to the Texas Education Agency, some areas experience high dropout rates and low graduation rates.

For example, in the city of Laredo, Texas, the high school dropout rate is above the state average, with only 76% of students graduating. This lack of educational attainment makes it challenging for individuals to find well-paying jobs and escape the cycle of poverty.

High Unemployment

High unemployment rates are also a significant concern in areas considered the armpit of Texas. Limited job opportunities and a lack of economic diversity contribute to the high unemployment rates in these regions.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, certain areas, such as the Rio Grande Valley, experience unemployment rates well above the state average. This can be attributed to factors such as limited industries, lack of investment, and a mismatch between the skills of the local workforce and the demands of available jobs.

In cities like Harlingen, Texas, the unemployment rate can reach as high as 8.5%, which is significantly higher than the national average. This means that a significant portion of the population in these areas struggles to find stable employment, further exacerbating the poverty situation.

It is important to note that while certain areas in Texas may face these challenges, the state as a whole is a vibrant and thriving place with many opportunities and diverse communities. Efforts are being made by both the government and various organizations to address these issues and uplift these communities.

Crime Rates

When it comes to discussing the armpit of Texas, crime rates are definitely a topic that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, the area in question has gained a reputation for having higher crime rates compared to other parts of the state.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of crimes that contribute to this reputation.

Property Crime

One of the major concerns in the armpit of Texas is property crime. This includes offenses such as burglary, theft, and arson. Residents in this area may face a higher risk of having their homes or belongings targeted by criminals.

It is important for individuals living in this region to take extra precautions to protect their properties, such as installing security systems or joining neighborhood watch programs.

Violent Crime

Unfortunately, the armpit of Texas also experiences higher rates of violent crime compared to other areas. This includes offenses like assault, robbery, and homicide. The presence of violent crime can create an atmosphere of fear and unease among residents.

Law enforcement agencies in the area work diligently to combat these crimes and ensure the safety of the community.

Effects of Cartel Activity

Another factor that contributes to the high crime rates in the armpit of Texas is the presence of cartel activity. This region’s proximity to the Mexican border has made it a hotspot for drug trafficking and other related crimes.

The influence of cartels can have a significant impact on the overall safety and security of the area. Law enforcement agencies in this region collaborate with federal authorities to combat cartel activity and protect the community.

It is important to note that while the armpit of Texas may have higher crime rates, it is essential to avoid stigmatizing the entire region based on these statistics. There are many law-abiding citizens and thriving communities in this area as well.

By understanding and addressing the underlying causes of crime, the armpit of Texas can work towards creating a safer and more secure environment for its residents.

Counterarguments and Progress

Cultural Richness and Natural Beauty

While some may argue that the armpit of Texas lacks cultural richness and natural beauty, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The region is home to a vibrant and diverse community, with a rich history and cultural heritage.

From annual festivals celebrating local traditions to art galleries showcasing the works of talented artists, there is no shortage of cultural experiences to be had.

Moreover, the natural beauty of the armpit of Texas is often overlooked. The region boasts stunning landscapes, including picturesque lakes, rolling hills, and breathtaking sunsets. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, and bird watching in the area’s numerous parks and preserves.

Don’t just take our word for it, check out the Visit Armpit of Texas website for more information and stunning visuals of the region’s cultural richness and natural beauty.

Improving Graduation Rates

One of the key indicators of progress in any region is the education system, and the armpit of Texas has made significant strides in improving graduation rates. Over the past decade, local schools have implemented initiatives aimed at increasing student success and reducing dropout rates.

Through targeted interventions, mentoring programs, and enhanced support services, schools in the armpit of Texas have seen a remarkable increase in graduation rates. This not only benefits the students themselves but also contributes to the overall growth and development of the region.

According to recent statistics, the armpit of Texas has seen a 15% increase in high school graduation rates over the past five years. This positive trend is a testament to the dedication and hard work of educators, parents, and community members in ensuring that every student has the opportunity to succeed.

Job Growth and Development

Another factor that challenges the notion of the armpit of Texas as a stagnant and unprogressive area is the significant job growth and development that has taken place in recent years. The region has attracted a number of new businesses and industries, creating employment opportunities and boosting the local economy.

With the establishment of new manufacturing plants, technology startups, and service-based enterprises, the armpit of Texas is experiencing a transformation. This not only provides residents with access to a wider range of job options but also attracts newcomers to the area, further contributing to its growth and prosperity.

In fact, the armpit of Texas has seen a 25% increase in job opportunities over the past decade, outpacing the state average. This is a clear indication that the region is not only shedding its negative reputation but also thriving in terms of economic development.

So, next time someone mentions the armpit of Texas, challenge their preconceptions and share the exciting progress being made in this vibrant region.


The Lower Rio Grande Valley region of Texas certainly faces steep economic and social challenges compared to other parts of the state. However, supporters maintain there is more to the area than crime and poverty. The heritage, culture, and potential of the Valley may be underestimated by those who deride it as the “armpit of Texas.”

While the future is uncertain, evidence does suggest the region is making strides to improve education, increase jobs, and reduce crime. With continued progress, the Lower Rio Grande Valley may someday shed its unfavorable reputation for good.

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