Dr. Klineberg, Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research spoke to WFE on January 9th at the Federal Reserve to provide an overview of the Kinder Houston Area Survey that was completed in 2017 and to discuss the future of the Houston region based on their findings for the past 35 years.  Dr. Klineberg illustrated that in just the past three decades, the region has been transformed from an essentially bi-racial Southern city into the single most ethnically and culturally diverse metropolitan region in the nation. Such rapid change can become either a source of great strength or the basis for deepening social and economic divides.

Given the distribution by age of the ethnic communities, no force in the world will stop Houston from becoming more Latino, more African-American, more Asian, and less Anglo as the twenty-first century unfolds. Houston will set the precedent. There is no other place or time to which this region can look for a blueprint to ensure its success. How Houston navigates the demographic transformation will determine its future. The region’s burgeoning diversity could be a tremendous asset in this increasingly globalized, knowledge-based economy. Yet if most area residents continue to live and work in largely segregated enclaves, reinforced by widening educational disparities and mutual misunderstandings, the expanding diversity is likely to diminish Houston’s competitiveness in the new economy and to set the stage for serious social conflict.

Some of the critical challenges Dr. Klineberg identified as we move forward are developing closer connections across all of Houston’s varied ethnic communities, strengthening the “talent pipeline” that will nurture the new multi-ethnic professional and community leadership of the twenty-first century, ensuring equal access for all children to quality education from pre-K through college, achieving comprehensive immigration reform and enhancing economic opportunity, financial literacy, and the neighborhood transportation and housing policies that will foster the development of stable, mixed income, multi-ethnic communities.

About the Kinder Institute

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research is 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. Created in 2010, the Institute was endowed with a $15 million gift from Houston philanthropists Richard and Nancy Kinder.

Originally housed in the Department of Sociology, the Kinder Institute is now an independent campus-wide institute working with a wide variety of partners on the Rice campus, including the School of Architecture, the School of Social Sciences, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, the Shell Center for Sustainability, the SSPEED Center, and the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. The Kinder Institute is also developing partnerships with a wide variety of other universities and think tanks, including the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, the Urban Institute, the University of Texas School of Public Health, and the National Resource Network.

The mission of the Kinder Institute is to:

  • Advance understanding of the most important issues facing Houston and other leading urban centers through rigorous research, policy analysis, and public outreach; and
  • Collaborate with civic and political leaders to implement promising solutions to these critical issues.