High on Houston

The 30th annual Kinder Houston Area Survey showed that Harris County residents have become a little more upbeat in their personal economic outlooks, but remain pessimistic about the long-term national prospects.

Rice sociology professor Dr. Stephen Klineberg is co-director of the Kinder Institute, which conducted the survey. After the oil boom collapsed in 1982, Houston went into major recession. It recovered into a restructured economy and a demographic revolution. Klineberg says these are the transformations occurring across all over the country, but no where as clear as in Houston.

"It's not religious conversion that we're waiting for in the business community. It's enlightened self interest, and you can see that happening. Being able to present this at the Greater Houston Partnership, the chamber of commerce of Houston sees things differently today. They understand that what Houston needs to do to be prosperous in the 21st century is different from what worked so well when our location in the East Texas oil fields was the basis for our wealth in the 20th century."

He says Houston leads the country's demographic revolution, as Anglos, Asians, blacks and Latinos meet in more equal numbers than almost anywhere else in the country.

"Nothing in the world is gonna stop Houston or Texas from becoming way more Latino, way more African American, and much less Anglo as the 21st century unfolds. Nothing we could do could change that demographic reality. Only question is, will that demographic reality be the great asset that it could be, or will it end up being a major liability as we go forward?"

Klineberg says we must invest in the educational opportunities of the poor and middle class, or else the gap between rich and poor will continue to accelerate.

For more information, visit Rice University Houston Area Survey Webpage or read the Kinder Houston Area Survey Report.

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