Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America
In the tradition of Edward Glaeser's Triumph of the City, sociologist Stephen Klineberg's PROPHETIC CITY is an argument for the city of Houston being a microcosm for America's future, based on an unprecedented 36-year study examining its changing cultural, demographic, and economic landscapes. This is a book about the future of cities!
By diversifying its economy and generating large numbers of both highly-skilled technical jobs in engineering and medicine, and lots of low-skilled minimum wage jobs in construction, restaurant work, and personal services, Houston became a powerful magnet for the new, divergent streams of immigration that are transforming America in the twenty-first century.
Fortunately, this city, which was among the first to experience the epic transformations taking place across America, has been measured and surveyed to a degree that is unmatched in any other metro area in the country. Thanks to an exceptional research initiative at Rice University, Houston area residents have been the subject of systematic community surveys, conducted annually over the past thirty-seven years, measuring the ongoing changes in attitudes, beliefs, and life experiences that point to where all of America is heading.
Survey questions include:
- How have you been doing financially over the past few years?
- How do you think you'll be doing three or four years down the road?
- Is the country headed for better times or more difficult times?
- Will increasing ethnic diversity eventually become a source of great strength for the city or a growing problem?
In PROPHETIC CITY, Stephen Klineberg, the director of the Kinder Houston Area Survey, illustrates how decades of surveys have created a compelling data-driven map of the challenges and opportunities that are facing Houston and the country. With the statistics from a population surveyed for nearly forty years, Klineberg builds a detailed portrait of the various ways ordinary Americans have been responding to the new realities of the twenty-first century.
In this book, we will meet some of the new Americans:
A family who moved to Houston from Mexico in the early 1980s and who still struggle to find work above poverty wages. A young man born to highly educated Indian parents in the Houston suburb of Sugarland, one of the most affluent and fastest-growing towns in Texas, who grew up to become a doctor in the world's largest medical complex. A white man who resents being prematurely pushed out of the workforce when his company downsized while other Americans enjoy generous governmental support.
No city in the nation has been tracked in this way over such a long period of time. Few more clearly exemplify the trends that are rapidly refashioning the social and political landscape across America. Houston is at the center of the sweeping changes that have redefined the nature of American society itself in the new century. Developments here provide both a model and a cautionary tale for the rest of the country.
This is where, for better or worse, we can see the American future taking shape.
Stephen Klineberg is the founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a multi-disciplinary "think-and-do tank" housed on the Rice University campus in central Houston, focusing on urban issues in Houston, the American Sunbelt, and around the world. Klineberg joined Rice University's Sociology Department in 1972, and in 1982, he and his students initiated the annual Houston Area Survey, now beginning its 38th year of tracking the remarkable changes in the demographic patterns, economic outlooks, experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of Harris County residents.
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