What's it like to live in Brownsville, TX?


Miriam Weiner

Profile written by local expert:

Miriam Weiner

Located at the southernmost tip of Texas, the Brownsville metro area marks the point where Texas meets both Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico. This strategic position has helped shape the metro area in several ways. It was here that American and Mexican troops first clashed in 1846, firing the first shots of the two-year-long Mexican War. And soon after the war ended, it was Brownsville's access to the Rio Grande river and the Gulf of Mexico that solidified its role as the dominant trading hub in the region.

Brownsville's residents continue to experience the influence of the metro area's location in their daily lives. With the majority of the population claiming Mexican heritage, Spanish is widely spoken, and it's just as easy to find authentic mole sauce as it is to find quality Texas sirloin. Meanwhile, the Port of Brownsville continues to act as southern Texas' primary trade and transportation hub. And then there's the coastline. Brownsville's proximity to the Gulf means residents can enjoy the region's beautiful beaches all year long – well, at least when the spring breakers aren't in town. And local fishermen ensure that there's plenty of fresh seafood to go around.

Rankings

U.S. News analyzed 125 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Brownsville, Texas is ranked:

#116 in Best Places to Live

#81 in Best Places to Retire

5.7

Overall

Scorecard

Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
    5.3
  • Value
    5.4
  • Job Market
    4.1
  • Quality of Life
    7.6
  • Net Migration
    4.6

Read how we rank places

Brownsville, TX Quick Stats

  • 420,201

    Metro Population

  • $35,240

    Average Annual Salary

  • N/A

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 31.4

    Median Age

  • N/A

    Median Home Price

  • N/A

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 6.2%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $683

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 20.2 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What's the cost of living in Brownsville, TX?

Living in Brownsville is much more affordable than living in Austin or Houston. The lower cost of living in the city proper directly correlates with the low cost of housing throughout the region. Of course, certain areas are pricier than others: Waterfront communities like Port Isabel and South Padre Island see median home prices that are roughly 1.5 times the metro area average. Still, Brownsville residents tend to pay less than the average American for everyday expenses, such as groceries.

Value Index

Index Score: 5.4 /10

How we calculate this.


Brownsville offers a lower value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Brownsville, TX.

What's the weather like in Brownsville, TX?

Given its location at the southern tip of Texas, Brownsville rarely experiences cold weather. That said, the region is prone to hurricanes and other tropical storms that blow in off the Gulf of Mexico during the autumn months.

What's the best way to get around Brownsville, TX?

Navigating Brownsville requires a car. The good news is, even though nearly every resident is traveling to and from work by car, traffic is rarely a problem. The average Brownsville commuter spends about 20 minutes traveling to work. In fact, speed limits are generally higher in the region (as they are in all of Texas) than in major metro areas along the East and West Coasts. Interstate 69E traverses the center of Brownsville proper, while Routes 4, 48 and 281 connect the downtown area to points east and west.

Those who live in central Brownsville have access to more than a dozen public bus routes, which shuttle passengers to several major points of interest, including the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport and the Port of Brownsville. The region also has a number of bike trails, although summer's scorching temperatures can make cycling tough.

When they need to travel beyond the metro area, residents rely on the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport. From Brownsville, American Airlines and United Airlines operate direct flights to Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston, where travelers can connect to their final destination. Ground transportation is provided by Greyhound.

Commuting in Brownsville, TX

Means of Transportation
Driving
94%
Above national average

Bicycling
0%
Equal to national average

Walking
1%
Equal to national average

Public Transit
1%
Below national average
Average Commute Time

20.2 minutes

6.2 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Brownsville, TX?

The Brownsville community has been heavily influenced by Mexican culture; in fact, the majority of the area's population is of Mexican descent. In downtown Brownsville, shops are filled with silver jewelry and colorful zarapes, as well as restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine – not the Tex-Mex staples you'll find farther north. Brownsville celebrates its heritage from both sides of the border every year during the Charro Days Fiesta, which features music, dancing, a parade and fireworks.

For religious views, residents in Brownsville largely practice Catholicism, which is likely attributed to the population's Mexican heritage. Roughly half of Brownsville's residents do not claim any religious affiliation.

The presence of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in central Brownsville draws millennials to the area, causing the region's population to skew younger. Because of this, more than a third of residents are under 20 years old. That being said, the region's warm climate and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico does attract retirees as well; more than a tenth of the population is older than 65.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown


About the same number of single people in Brownsville as national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

What is there to do in Brownsville, TX?

Brownsville's pleasant climate means residents can enjoy the Gulf Coast beaches year-round. Although the South Padre Island shorelines fill with spring breakers every March and April, the region's beaches are popular hangout spots for locals throughout the rest of the year. The Gulf of Mexico also provides plenty of opportunities to fish. Meanwhile, nature enthusiasts can follow 8 miles of trails through Resaca de la Palma State Park, which features an expansive native habitat in the World Birding Center network. The Laguna Atacosa Wildlife Refuge is another great place to spot local birdlife, not to mention armadillos, ocelot and even alligators.

The Brownsville metro area also has a number of historic and cultural sites. The Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site commemorates the location of the first battle of the Mexican War in 1846. The Mitte Cultural District comprises a number of the area's top attractions, including the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Historic Brownsville Museum and the Old City Cemetery, where early settlers and victims of the Mexican War were laid to rest.

The Brownsville area is a great place to live for those who enjoy live performances. The Camille Playhouse hosts a variety of shows, from Broadway shows to murder mystery events. Brownsville is also home to the Latin Jazz Festival; started by "King of Latin Music" Tito Puente, this festival spotlights some of the top Latin jazz musicians in the world.

The metro area's culinary scene is as diverse as its pastimes. Of course, hearty Texas steakhouse cuisine is a staple, but Brownsville is also full of authentic Mexican eateries serving traditional dishes from south of the border. Additionally, the metro area benefits from the bounty of the Gulf: Residents can snack on fresh seafood any day of the year.