The Other Side of Eagle Ford Shale

ITC, UTSA look at the consequences of the latest Texas oil boom

(SAN ANTONIO) – The oil boom in the Eagle Ford Shale region of Dimmit, La Salle, and Zavala counties permanently transformed the face of South Texas. For five years, the petroleum industry generated fantastic economic opportunities, creating employment and wealth. Nonetheless, there were consequences to the scale of economic impact that the oil boom had on the region.

In a new exhibit at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, May 13 to Oct. 1, researchers from the UTSA Mexico Center and UTSA Institute for Economic Development showcase the results of an ethnographic study on the Eagle Ford Shale’s effect on housing.

With the demand for workers in the oil fields, Zavala, Dimmit and LaSalle counties saw a surge in housing construction, along with amenities for the area, including increased commerce, fast food, short-term lodging, and other products and services.

The virtual overnight surge of workers arriving in the region created a shortage in the housing supply. The three counties, which relied previously on rural agrarian economic generators, saw an influx of demand and an influx of money, driving up the cost of housing and pushing the American Dream of home ownership out of range for many local residents.

“These counties already lacked accessible, quality, affordable housing,” said Harriett Romo, UTSA professor of sociology and director of the Mexico Center. “Rents increased exponentially. When families pay more than 35 percent of available income for housing, they are unable to afford medical care, educational expenses, savings for retirement, or investments in the younger generation and their community.”

Over their two years of studying the region, the research team accumulated hundreds of photographs and hours of interviews for the exhibit, which was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The exhibit sections follow three key factors the researchers set out to record: the impact of oil and gas exploration on low-cost housing stock, how stakeholders responded to housing availability and affordability in the region, and the strategies local officials used to address affordable housing and infrastructure needs in the region.

“Housing is a basic necessity. Affordable, high quality housing is an essential part of a viable community. With this exhibit we are urging local and state leaders to use the economic opportunities created by the Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas reserves to invest in their communities. We hope this exhibit makes people aware of the challenges and the potential in South Texas as a result of the resources in the Eagle Ford Shale area” said Romo.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults (12-64); $8 for seniors (ages 65+) and children (6-11); children 5 and under free; free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit

The Institute of Texan Cultures gives voice to the experiences of people from across the globe who call Texas home, providing insight into our past, present, and future. An agency of the Vice President for Community Services at The University of Texas at San Antonio and a Smithsonian Affiliate, the 182,000 square foot complex, featuring 45,000 square feet of exhibit space and five re-creation Texas Frontier period structures, is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus in downtown San Antonio. Resources for multiple audiences are available at

Contact: James M. Benavides
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Office. (210) 458-2237

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