Houston, TX

Observing Houston through four decades of progressive changes

Marisol Gallagher

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Houston, a supposedly anti-government city, has been increasingly perceiving the crucial role of government in improving the safety net, expanding opportunity, and developing resiliency, according to the Kinder Houston Area Surveys.

Stephen Klineberg, a professor emeritus of Sociology at Rice University, has been chronicling the progressive changes in the Houston metropolitan region for almost four decades. His research has formed a riveting narrative that follows economic and natural disasters, as well as economic windfalls and incredible displays of resiliency by the people of Houston.

Houston has gone through major changes in population size and demographics since the oil boom of the 1970s. At the tail-end of the oil boom, Klineberg says the Kinder Houston Area Survey was launched as a one-time class project on Houston’s booming economy to teach Rice University sociology majors research methods.

“So, we did a one-time survey to measure, ‘how are people experiencing this tremendous wealth?’ There were growing concerns about pollution, crime and traffic. What kind of city are we building with all this affluence?’”

The Kinder Houston Area Survey 2021 has found that residents want more stringent controls on development to mitigate future storms, enhance the area’s quality-of-life attributes, and develop more sidewalks within urban neighborhoods.

Demographic changes in the city have also been profound, and support for granting undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship has also grown.

“We are in the midst of this fundamental transformation, from a city totally dominated and controlled by white men into the most ethnically diverse city in the country,” Klineberg says. “And it’s happening right before our eyes.”

With the diversifying population comes disparity, but this year’s survey shows a “broader awareness that people are poor in this country through no fault of their own, and that [the] government has a critical role to play in economic justice,” according to Klineberg.

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