The Paulos Foundation
Susan J. Wilcox
Women's Policy Forum's Second Annual
Emerging Issues Symposium:
"Roadmap to the Future: Health, Education, Policy and Business in 2030"
Nov. 5, 2015
Klineberg: The World is Watching How Texas Handles an Inevitable Demographic Shift
Keynote speaker Stephen Klineberg explained that Texas is the tip of the spear in an inevitable national shift to a more ethnically diverse society in his address to the opening session of the 2015 Emerging Issues Symposium, “Roadmap to the Future: Health, Education, Policy and Business in 2030,” on Nov. 15 in Fort Worth. His presentation, “The Changing Face of Texas: Tracking the Economic and Demographic Transformation through 34 Years of Systematic Surveys,” confirms coming demographic shifts nationally based on Houston’s own transformation over the last three decades.
“Immigration has forever changed the makeup of society,” he said. “A new America is taking shape.”
Klineberg set the stage for a half-day exploration of the issues facing Tarrant County and Texas in the next 15 years. Following his keynote, the close to 200 meeting participants selected two breakout sessions to explore more deeply the changes expected in health, education, policy and business in the next 15 years.
The leading edge of 76 million baby boomers turn 70 this year and the number of people in the United States turning 65 will double in the next 25 years, he explained. What follows the baby boomers is a mix of ethnicities, a microcosm of the world. Seventy percent of everyone under the age of 19 is African-American or Latino. “People over 65 aren’t making more babies,” he said. “There is no force in the world, nation or Texas that will prevent the next generation from being more Latino, African-American or Asian.”
“How the next generation navigates this change is going to make a huge difference,” Klineberg said. “This is America’s future and Texas is first.”
The current change in American society began in 1965 when Congress opened the doors to immigrants with skills needed in the U.S. Eighty-eight percent of those who migrated were from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. Houston was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this demographic shift.
“Houston would have lost population without growth from immigration,” said Klineberg, who lives in Houston and is on the faculty of Rice University. “Today it is one of the most vibrant, growing cities in the world. All of us are minorities in Houston,” he explained. “We had to learn to get along and find common ground.”
The rise of majority minority cities and states requires new approaches to ensure a better future. Globalization has created a massive shift of wealth to the top 5 percent of society. The poorest 20 percent are poorer today than 30 years ago and the bottom 60 percent have stayed the same or gone down. The great differentiator is education. Of 91 million jobs created, 65 percent require education beyond high school. In our surveys, two-thirds said education beyond high school is important.
“African Americans and Latinos, more than Anglos, know this. They are not getting that education because of poverty and lack of support systems. The poor are locked out of the system that ensures success,” he said. “If African Americans and Hispanics are unprepared to succeed, it’s hard to imagine a prosperous future.” Texas, he added, ranks 30th among the 50 states in education spending and is in the bottom for per capita spending on education.
In Houston, Klineberg says residents say in surveys that immigration has been good for the city and almost 70 percent believe immigration is good for the nation. Young people are especially supportive and reflect a more positive attitude toward immigration. The next generation is more tolerant of differences, less likely to marry and raise families, and more interested in living in cities with respect for the environment.