Stephen Klineberg from the Sociology Department at Rice University presented today in the Center for Civic Engagement Fellows meeting. He discussed the changing face of Houston and talked about the results of The Houston Area Survey, a yearly survey that addresses many topics of Houston’s social climate. This survey has been conducted since 1982 and has seen many changes in the city, from its peak during the oil boom to the recession that followed. It was in 1982 that the city of Houston collapsed from the prosperity of its 80 year oil boom, but Houston’s rapid recovery proved the city’s resilience. The survey was conducted again after the industry’s collapse and has continued thereafter. Dr. Klineberg related that in 1980 82% of jobs in Houston were related to the oil industry, and today that industry holds only 45 percent.
Houston is moving to the life since and biotech/nanotech/infotech sector with 78,000 jobs currently in the Texas Medical Center. When asked what the biggest problem in Houston is today, respondents answered that the economy, traffic, and crime were the three biggest problems. From a historical perspective Houston has been anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-planning, anti-taxes, anti-anything that seemed to prevent growth in the city’s business sector. The businesses of Houston have finally realized that quality of life is an important factor in attracting the talent that will sustain Houston in the 21st century. To improve the city’s quality of life, Houston’s businesses have grown to embrace the green movement to make the city both visually appealing and ecologically sound.
As people continue to make Houston their home, the expansion of the Metro Light Rail Transit System will be important to the city’s expansion with its thirty new miles of rail. Though Houston was once dominated by Anglo residents, now it currently experiences a minority-majority, including a very young population that will soon surpass the number of elderly residents in the city. Dr. Klineberg projects that by 2010, ten to twelve states will also experience minority-majorities and by 2040 all U.S. states will have shifted to minorty-majorities. According to Dr. Klineberg, “If the region is to flourish in the 21st century, it will need to develop into a much more unified and inclusive multiethnic society, one in which equality of opportunity is truly made available to all citizens and all of its communities are invited to participate as full partners in shaping the Houston Future.”