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Steve Murdock

Harris County’s growth slows

We’re still growing, we just didn’t grow as fast last year as we had in previous years.

After eight straight years of boom – adding more new residents than any county in the nation – Harris County in 2016 felt some of the oil bust’s sting.

The county gained a total of about 56,600 people last year, a decline of 37 percent from the previous year, placing it behind Arizona’s Maricopa County, which added nearly 81,400 new residents.

The decline was largely attributable to the fact that for the first time in years more people – about 16,000 – left Harris County than moved here from elsewhere in the country, according to Census data released Thursday.

Despite the losses, Harris County held on to its No. 2 position in the nation in overall growth thanks to the number of people moving here from abroad and the number of births.

The greater Houston region, which includes The Woodlands and Sugar Land, also saw the total number of new residents fall by about 21 percent to just over 125,000 in 2016, the lowest in at least the last four years.

[…]

State demographer Lloyd Potter said Houston’s population growth is also powered by its high birth rates, especially among its young, rapidly expanding Hispanic population.

“The net out domestic migration was pretty substantial,” Potter said. “That’s kind of impressive, to still have the second-highest numeric growth. You would have expected it to slip a little more than that.”

Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University sociology professor and founding director of its Kinder Institute for Urban Research, pointed to the fate of other cities that have seen similar dramatic job declines such as Detroit, where Wayne County last year lost about 7,700 residents, the most in the nation after Chicago’s Cook County. Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has in the past called for more visas for high-skilled immigrants for the Detroit area, citing the population losses and need for an economic jump-start.

“This is a powerful reminder of how much Houston benefits from immigration,” Klineberg said.

We sure do, in many ways. The flip side of that is that we have a lot to lose if immigration is curtailed the way Dear Leader Trump and his minions want to. Even with them being 0 for 2 on travel bans, we’re already seeing the effect of that. We’ll just have to see what the numbers look like next year.

You can’t talk about population growth without talking about redistricting. Texas is on track to get more Congressional seats in the 2020 reapportionment, probably two or three. It seems likely that the greater area, if not Harris County itself, will get a bigger piece of the Congressional pie. Of more interest is whether Harris County will remain at 24 members in the Legislature, or if it will go back to having 25 members. Too early to say, and things can certainly change, but it could happen. Keep that in mind as we go forward. This Chron story and the Trib, both of which have charts, have more.

White return flight

Some interesting demographic trends going on.

Between 2000 and 2010, [Harris] county, like much of the U.S., saw a sharp decline of its white population, losing about 12 percent of Anglos or about 83,000 people.

The drop mirrors demographic shifts across the nation as white birthrates have slowed. But in the past three years, Harris County added about 25,000 white residents, about 11 percent of its approximately 227,800 new residents, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

While the greatest drivers of the county’s growth are still Hispanics, it’s the reversal of the decadelong white decline that grabs demographers.

“It’s a surprising pattern given what we saw in the last decade, and indicative of the overall pervasiveness of population growth in Texas and especially in Houston,” said Steve Murdock, a onetime state demographer and former Census Bureau director who now leads the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.

“The amount of growth, percentage-wise, is almost the same as the decline … that’s a fairly substantial change,” Murdock said.

Though Anglos remain the nation’s largest racial group, it’s the only demographic group which is shrinking rather than growing. Last year, it was the sole group to count more deaths than births.

Texas, on the other hand, saw the largest numeric increase of white residents in the U.S. between 2012 and 2013, gaining about 51,000 Anglos

Within Harris County, where Anglos make up about 32 percent of the population or about 1.3 million, some 9,000 white residents were added last year.

“There’s a significant amount of Anglos moving into the region from outside of Houston,” said Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research for the Greater Houston Partnership, an economic development organization.

“They’re coming here because of the jobs. … If you look at all the growth in the Energy Corridor and the Medical Center, and the new Exxon campus in The Woodlands, we’re attracting workers who are more skilled, and many of them are white.”

But he suggested there might be a more subtle shift as well. Because Houston is attracting more single or young workers seeking to cash in on the energy and medical booms, an increasing number, like Carey and Bowen, are choosing to live in Houston rather than more suburban, neighboring counties.

“There’s no white flight anymore,” Jankowski said. “People are more and more accepting of different races and different ethnicities. They don’t care about their next-door neighbor as long as the lawn is mowed.”

As we know, some parts of town were getting whiter long before this. There are lots of questions one could ask about this, but for me I always come to the political implications. While it’s true that the increase in Harris County’s Anglo population is a reversal of earlier trends, the overall trend of Harris County getting less white hasn’t changed, it’s just decelerated a bit. I doubt there will be much change at a macro level, but there could be some effects here and there, especially in lower-turnout environments. It would be nice to know more about where these folks are coming from and what their existing proclivities are, but without that information we’ll just have to hypothesize.

One related tidbit from a different story.

Demand for high-density living grew across the state, according to the report. San Antonio saw the biggest increase in sales at 18 percent, followed by Austin at 14 percent. In Dallas, sales were up 4 percent.

“There is little available land for housing development in Texas’ major metro areas, particularly in its urban centers where housing demand is strongest,” [Jim Gaines, an economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University] said in the report. “Developers are now looking upward for opportunities to build and invest in multifamily developments both in these centers and even in some suburban areas. Condo sales will likely be a strong driver in the Texas housing market for the rest of the year.”

Developer Randall Davis said rising single-family housing prices are driving expansion in the condominium market. Builders can put multiple units on one site, he said, and “deliver a product that’s almost equivalent but at a lesser price.”

More of Houston’s big builders, too, are interested in developing in the central city, said Gary Latz of Bohlke Consulting Group, a consulting firm for the housing industry.

Over the last 12 months, residential permits within Beltway 8 were up 22.8 percent over the same period last year. That’s compared with the overall Houston area, which was up 9.3 percent.

“People love the idea of living in closer and being close to all the amenities Houston has to offer,” Latz said.

Again, that’s a trend that’s been happening for some time now. Maybe if it keeps up we can get some more infrastructure spending inside the Beltway, too? Because that would be nice.

The story from Dallas is similar but not quite the same.

“Let’s look at Dallas County,” said Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “There was growth in the Asian population, no doubt about it. But we also see a turnaround in growth in the non-Hispanic white population.”

While Dallas County showed a loss of 1,436 non-Hispanic whites from the 2010 census through July 1, 2013, that’s minuscule compared with losses in the previous decade, Murdock said.

“If you had the same pattern going on as you had in the last decade, you would have lost a good number more,” he said. “At this rate, you might lose 5,000 over this decade, compared with the loss of 198,000 over the last decade. We’re seeing the same thing in Harris County, where it changed from a negative to a positive.”

While non-Hispanic whites continue to move to suburbs, it could be that some younger folks and empty-nesters are finding urban centers more attractive for lifestyle reasons. And, demographers say, those leaving are being replaced by others looking for jobs, either from other parts of Texas or out of state.

“When you look at the state level,” said Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, “we’re seeing positive immigration of non-Hispanic whites.”

The splashy numbers, though, came from growth rates in the Asian population — up 20 percent in Denton County, 18.5 percent in Rockwall, 18.1 percent in Collin, 14.9 percent in Dallas and 10.8 percent in Tarrant — over the last three years. In many ways that’s a continuation of the trends from 2000 to 2010, when Asians and Hispanics were the two fastest-growing groups in the state.

Hispanic growth rates were still double-digit in Collin, Denton and Rockwall counties at 11.2, 13.7 and 14 percent, respectively, for the three-year period, “but the rate of growth is down in Collin” compared with the previous decade, Murdock said.

[…]

The non-Hispanic black population is growing rapidly as well — up 19.6 percent in Denton, 18.1 percent in Collin, 12.5 percent in Rockwall, 10 percent in Tarrant and 5.8 percent in Dallas.

Much of the growth across the region and the state comes from migration, Potter and Murdock agreed, and that migration is driven largely by jobs.

“Overall, I think we’re seeing that Hispanic growth rates are down, but the non-Hispanic white losses have been significantly reversed,” said Murdock, a former director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

He used Travis County as an example.

“From 2000 to 2010, Travis County added about 59,000 non-Hispanic whites,” Murdock said. “This time, it has added 41,000 non-Hispanic whites in the first three years,” an annual rate that roughly doubles that of the previous decade.

I don’t really have anything to add to that, I just find stories like these to be fascinating. Whatever else you can say about Texas, it’s not static.

Another trip down Demography Lane

From the Sunday Chron op-ed pages:

Texas is headed for the ditch, but few people are aware of the state’s perilous path. The demographers have seen the future, though, because it’s foretold in their numbers. And they’ve been sounding the alarm.

There hasn’t been much of a public-policy response, so far.

Texas could be the pacesetter: It has a young and rapidly growing population. Educate that workforce and Texas becomes a vibrant, thriving state for decades. Unfortunately, that young population is overwhelmingly minority and under-educated, and there appears to be little political interest in addressing the needs of that demographic group.

Increasingly, Texas stands to become poorer and less competitive, according to demographers who study the numbers for a living. Neither state leaders nor the media is paying adequate attention. Few Texans are aware of the state’s rapidly changing population. Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest population group some time before 2020.

By the numbers, here’s what’s been taking place: The state lost 184,486 white children between 2000 and 2010 while gaining 931,012 Hispanic children over that decade, according to the U.S. Census. Stated another way, in 2000, Texas white kids outnumbered Hispanic children by 120,382; Flash forward to 2010 and Hispanic children outnumbered white kids by 995,116.

This gap will continue to widen. Demographer Steve Murdock notes the average white female is 42 years old compared to an average age of 28 for Latinas. And the fertility rate is 1.9 children for the white female compared to 2.7 for the Latina. Demographers say replacement of a population group requires a fertility rate of at least 2.1.

Whites are projected to make up fewer than 4 percent of the state’s population growth between now and 2040, compared to 78 percent for Texas Hispanics.

Here’s the most important figure: All of our K-12 enrollment growth over the past decade comes from low-income children – that is, children whose family income qualifies them for free and reduced-cost school lunches. Those low-income students now make up a little more than 60 percent of our public school enrollment.

Many are way behind when they arrive in the first grade. Too many drop out years later. A whopping 47 percent of low-income high school students from the Class of 2015 were off track to graduate, according to testimony in last year’s public school finance trial.

Why does this matter? Murdock, who served as director of the U.S Census Bureau in the administration of President George W. Bush, projects that three out of 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma by 2040. Also, in 25 years, the average Texas household income will be some $6,500 less than it was in the year 2000. The figure is not inflation-adjusted, so it will be worse than it sounds. Basically, today’s children, collectively, stand to be worse off than preceding generations.

How can we address the trend line? The first step is to increase access to high-quality pre-K, Murdock says.

[…]

The demographers are warning us about the not so-rosy future if we fail to act. Education is the answer. Education is the best ticket out of poverty. We simply need state leaders to understand a universal truth: It doesn’t cost to educate a child; it pays to educate a child.

This is a condensed version of a longer piece by former Chron and Express-News reporter Gary Scharrer, which first appeared on Texas To The World. Scharrer was more recently on the staff of now-former Sen. Tommy Williams. Steve Murdock is a familiar name in this blog – he’s been singing this tune for well over a decade now, not that the powers that be have been listening. Here’s an interview I did with him in 2011, just as the Legislature was getting set to cut $5.4 billion from public education and $200 million from pre-k, because they suck like that. As we know, these issues are salient in the election for Governor this fall. You tell me whose pre-k plan, not to mention whose overall vision for education, is a better fit for our future.

Children continue to be our future

The mother of all school finance lawsuits, which commenced on Monday, will take many weeks to conclude. I don’t expect to follow it every day since there’s just so much else going on, but I wanted to point out a couple of things from the Chron story of the trial’s opening day.

Dr. Steve Murdock

By 2050, Texas will be home for 12 million non-Hispanic whites and 31 million Hispanics, Murdock said. Hispanic children will make up nearly two-thirds of the state’s public school enrollment while the percentage of white children, now about 30 percent, will have dropped to 15.5 percent, said [Steve] Murdock, Texas’ first official state demographer.

[…]

About 8 percent of Texas’ non-Hispanic whites have less than a high school education compared with 40.4 percent among Hispanics, Murdock said.

Education remains the best single indicator for economic success, he emphasized. In 2010, one of every 10 Texas whites lived in poverty compared with more than one in 4 among Hispanics, Murdock said.

The state’s future depends on Hispanics since they will make up most of the population growth in the coming decades, he said.

“Their need is our need in the sense that how well minority population groups do in Texas is how well Texas will do,” Murdock said.

Murdock has been singing this song for well over a decade now, but especially in the last legislative session it was clear that no one who had any power to do something about it was paying attention. Here’s an interview I did with Dr. Murdock last year – if you ever get the chance to talk to him or to hear him speak, I highly recommend it – and you can browse my archives for more of his greatest hits. I feel certain that someday there will be broad consensus that he was right all along. i just hope it isn’t too late to do something about it by then.

White non-Hispanic children made up 75 percent of Humble ISD’s school enrollment 12 years ago. Today, white children are a minority at 46 percent and the percentage of low-income children has increased from 15.9 percent to 35 percent.

“Virtually everything (Murdock’s) data showed is the experience we have had in our community,” Humble ISD Superintendent Guy Sconzo said.

[…]

Humble ISD taxpayers approved a maximum school operations tax rate of $1.17 for the 2008-09 school year that generated an extra $17.9 million per year – but the district then lost $24.2 million when state lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public education last year.

“In one fell swoop that (local tax) revenue went away,” Sconzo said.

As the Trib noted in its look back at a decade of Republican control of Texas, the GOP has largely attempted to control costs in the state budget by pushing them down to the local level. Sconzo’s words attest to that reality. I keep thinking that a day of reckoning will come when places like Humble to which people fled in order to have access to better schools for their kids can no longer provide the kind of education experience these people expected. It hasn’t happened yet on a wide scale, though there have been isolated victories and there are signs this year of it as some Republicans who voted for the vicious cuts to public education now try to run away from them, but I still believe it’s inevitable, and that the 2013 legislative session may hasten it for 2014. Put simply, the course we’re on is unsustainable. Something has to give.

The face of the country continues to change

This is our future.

For the first time, as of 2011, more than half of the children under age 1 in the U.S. were minorities, the newest benchmark illustrating the widening age gap between mostly white, older Americans and fast-growing, younger minority populations, particularly Hispanics.

Minorities under age 1 eclipsed 50 percent (50.4 percent), from a 49.5 percent level recorded by the 2010 census.

“The growth in minority populations is a national phenomenon,” said Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “That is different from a couple of decades ago, when we would have seen much more of it in Texas and California and in states with significant Hispanic populations.”

In Texas, nearly 7 in 10 people under age 1 were minorities as of July 2011, a slight increase from 2010, according to new census estimates out today. The data, covering the period from April 2010 to July 2011, are the first set of population estimates by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex since the decennial census. The Census Bureau said it defines a minority as anyone who is not single-race white.

Demographers have said for some time now that they expect racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by midcentury. Texas became a majority-minority state in 2004, and in 2010, Hispanics accounted for 65 percent of the state’s growth since 2000.

Here’s the Census Bureau press release, which has all of the relevant data. Here also is an interview I did with Steve Murdock last year. He’s been talking for a long time about these changes that are coming, how Texas has been on the leading edge with the country following behind, and how we are failing the future by not adequately providing for its education. The longer we take to properly address that, the larger the cost of our indifference will be. Adam Serwer, NewsTaco, and the Trib have more.

Brown versus gray

This is an old, familiar story, but it really can’t be said often enough:

When Gov. Rick Perry showed up in San Antonio earlier this summer to deliver brief remarks to the annual gathering of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, he sauntered inadvertently into a demographic dispute of epic proportions.

The courteous but cool reception the governor got that day was yet another manifestation of a tussle that regularly roiled the recent legislative session in Austin and one that will, in part, shape the coming presidential contest. Certainly, it will shape Texas politics for the foreseeable future.

Former state demographer Steven Murdock, now director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, says the reason Perry was received less than enthusiastically by the officially nonpartisan group was not simply a matter of liberal versus conservative, brown versus white or Republican versus Democrat. The tension in the hotel ballroom had its roots in a deeper demographic split, he says, one between the old and the young. The old happen to be predominantly Anglo, the young predominantly Hispanic.

The political divide between the two groups is stark. In a Pew Research Center survey released earlier this year, only 23 percent of white seniors said they preferred a larger government that offers more services; 61 percent preferred a smaller government that offers fewer services. Among minorities, the percentages were reversed: 62 percent preferred a larger government, 28 percent a smaller one.

Murdock, who also participated in the NALEO conference, maintains that the two forces represented that day in San Antonio actually depend on each other more than either usually acknowledges. How — or whether — they work out a rapprochement will have a powerful effect on the economic and social future of Texas and the nation.

“There’s a wonderful argument about the need for an inter-generational compact,” says Murdock’s Rice colleague, Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor, who for three decades has directed the Houston Area Survey. “The aging baby boomers who are moving into retirement, 76 million babies born during that incredible period 1946 to 1964, have a stake in making sure that these Latino and African-American kids are well-educated to get the good jobs and are well-paid — so that we can tax the daylights out of them.”

As I have done many times before, I will quote Steve Murdock, who has been singing from this hymnal for years now:

By [20]23 or [20]24, we’re talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I’m going to have—fire, police, and other services—depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

I’d say that unfortunately, the aging Anglo population is doing a fine job of forgetting this. And we’ll all pay for it down the line. See Greg for more on a related story.

Interview with Steve Murdock

Dr. Steve Murdock is a former State Demographer of Texas and director of the US Census, now the founding Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. He’s the man to go to if you want to know about demography in Texas, and since that’s both something that interests me and is also very much in the news between the Census and the legislative session, I figured now was an excellent time to have a conversation with him about these things. Here’s what we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

It’s a long conversation, but I hope you’ll find it as interesting and informative as I did. Whatever the Lege chooses to do this session, they and we can’t say we didn’t know any better.

Census stories: Dallas and its neighbors

The city of Dallas isn’t growing.

Despite a surging state population and double-digit growth rates in Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio, the city of Dallas grew by a paltry 1 percent in the last decade, according to the new census figures — a rate lower than any of the 20 largest cities in Texas. Dallas County fared little better: Its 6.7 percent growth rate was dwarfed by the four other most-populous Texas counties, which each saw more than 20 percent growth.

City and county officials blame the low growth on Dallas’ topography: The third-largest city in Texas is simply built out. With little empty land ripe for new development, they say, the bulk of the growth must naturally be outside the county line — that is, until their efforts to lure business professionals and retiring suburbanites into a newly remodeled, newly trendy downtown fully pay off.

“We may not have the same population opportunities, but we’re focusing on the economic side of that,” said Tom Leppert, the exiting mayor of Dallas. “We’re bringing a lot of business in, seeing a real resurgence in the downtown area. We’ve positioned ourselves very well for the future.”

But critics suggest Dallas’ larger-than-life image may be shrinking for another reason. They argue that officials’ lack of investment in public schools, streets, parks and pools — the real-world priorities outside of the city’s highbrow Arts District, with its cultural monuments designed by the hottest “starchitects” (Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano), and soon-to-be sky-high Santiago Calatrava “signature” bridges — is sending white families and middle-class minorities fleeing for the suburbs. The result, they say, is an inner city that is increasingly Hispanic, less educated and poor.

[…]

Mike Moncrief, the mayor of Fort Worth, said one of the big reasons for his city’s explosive growth is that Dallas is largely built out, and development is moving from east to west. While Dallas County can “only continue to build density,” he said, its neighbors, including Tarrant County, have room to grow.

Indeed, neighboring Collin and Denton counties grew by 59 percent and 53 percent, respectively; nearby Rockwall County grew by more than 80 percent, and is home to Fate, the biggest boomtown in Texas’s 2010 census count (it grew 1,100 percent). Statewide, four dozen cities and towns more than doubled their populations, and more than half were in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. “It’s phenomenal,” Murdock said, referencing one such city, McKinney. “You find growth rates there that make you stand in awe.”

And a lot of that suburban growth is African-American and Hispanic.

One of the most intriguing statistics in the 2010 census is the unprecedented movement of black families into homes and jobs in the suburban counties surrounding Dallas.

In Collin and Denton counties, and in the suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth, black growth rates soared by as much as 178 percent over the past decade, with most of the growth going to rapidly expanding communities located near major job centers with quality schools.

[…]

Allen’s black population soared from 1,915 to 7,071, and the percentage of population almost doubled. Frisco’s black population grew even faster, to 8.1 percent of the population from 3.8 percent in 2000.

In Dallas County, Cedar Hill now has a black majority at 51.9 percent of the population, after a net gain of more than 12,500 black residents in 10 years.

The 2010 census numbers for Texas and the nation show declining non-Hispanic white populations in many places and strong growth in Hispanic and, to a more limited extent, Asian and black numbers.

That phenomenon is particularly true in the Dallas area, where white growth was far lower percentagewise than that of other racial and ethnic groups from 2000 to 2010. Dallas County lost almost 200,000 white residents in the decade, a 20 percent decline. But other groups more than made up for the loss.

It’s the suburbs, though, that recorded the most substantial changes. Each of the suburban counties surrounding Dallas grew sharply over the decade, especially in terms of minority populations.

“I think what we’re seeing is African-American suburbanization and growth everywhere in the Hispanic population,” said Dr. Steve Murdock, director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University and former director of the Census Bureau.

“At the same time, we’re seeing the Anglo population declining in 161 Texas counties, including Dallas,” he said. “And the Hispanic population is increasing just about everywhere.”

According to the DMN story, a lot of the reason for all that African-American migration to Dallas’ suburbs is the quality of the schools. One wonders what these residents are doing about the impending budget cuts to public education, which will hit those schools hard. Anyway, I just thought these stories were worth noting, and by noting them I hope to get Greg to draw some more maps. Because you can’t have too many maps.

Murdock on the cuts to public education

Not too surprisingly, former state demographer Steve Murdock thinks that the looming cuts to public education are a long-term disaster for the state. He singled out pre-K and TEXAS grants as the top two items of concern.

“I am very concerned,” said Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice University and the former state demographer who also served as U.S. Census Bureau director in the George W. Bush administration. “It’s not like we have a lot of slack in the system where we can slip a little bit and still be OK.”

Minority children now make up at least 66 percent of the state’s 4.8 million public school enrollment, most from low-income families. In the last 10 years, the number of children from low-income families has increased by 893,055, surpassing overall enrollment growth during the same period.

Education is the single best predictor of income, Murdock says, and the combination of explosive Hispanic population growth and low academic achievement produces the sour forecast.

“We are lagging now and to fail to educate this population is a formula for long-term disaster for Texas,” Murdock said. “The thing that is most important for us to recognize is that what we do today with these young people will determine the future for all of us.”

Murdock has been sounding this alarm for a long time now, so while hearing him say all this is always welcome and necessary, it’s not a surprise. What is a bit of a surprise is this:

House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said he cannot defend the proposed cuts in Pre-K and TEXAS grant funding.

“We have some serious, serious decisions to make,” Eissler said. “If you predict the future based on today, it’s not bright.”

Eissler’s early words on education cuts, made before the official announcement of how deep the hole is, were less than reassuring. This is the first time I’ve noticed him push back in some way on the Pitts/Ogden budgets, and it’s encouraging to see. He’s not made a commitment to any particular course of action, so it’s still possible he could go along with what is now being proposed, but at least he’s saying the right things.

What today’s budget cuts will mean tomorrow

We know cuts are coming to public education and higher education. Let’s turn once again to Steve Murdock, the former State Demographer who is now a professor at Rice University, to hear what that will mean for Texas’ future.

Texas’ prosperity hinges on education. The numbers are troubling, however. The state ranks 36th in the nation, with just 71.9 percent of students graduating from high school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. African-American and Hispanic students are twice as likely to drop out as Anglo students. By 2040, at least 30 percent of Texas’ work force will consist of workers without a high-school diploma if current trends continue, Murdock says. “If we don’t close the gaps now, there’s going to be a significant reduction in household income later,” he says.

A high school dropout is more likely to earn poverty-level wages of about $14,500 a year. That’s at least $7,000 less than someone with a high school diploma. The mounting costs for social services and the prison system should worry state leaders. Nearly 75 percent of state prison inmates are high school dropouts. Every year’s worth of dropouts means a loss of $377 million in Medicaid, prison expenses and lost tax revenue, according to the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.

Another challenge is enrolling more students in higher education. Hispanics trail other students, making up just 29 percent of total college enrollment. In 2000, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board created the “Closing the Gaps 2015” program, with the goal of enrolling 630,000 more Texans in college, including 5.7 percent of the Hispanic population, by 2015.

Enrollment is increasing, but slower than educators hoped. The agency admitted in its 2009 report that it had fallen behind on its goals to recruit more African-American males and Hispanics. One big hurdle is cost. Those who do have high school diplomas struggle to pay increasing tuition rates. More than 60 percent of students apply for student aid. But state-based grant and loan programs like the Texas Grant Program and B-On-Time Loan Program have run out of funding. With an estimated $24 billion state budget shortfall in 2011, it’s doubtful that those coffers will be replenished any time soon. For many, a four-year college degree is already out of reach.

The economic gap will continue to widen if more Texans don’t seek higher education degrees. A person with a college diploma can expect to make $1 million more on average in a lifetime than a person without a high school diploma, says economist Ray Perryman, president of the Perryman Group, a financial-analysis firm.

[…]

The state’s economic health in 2040 depends on whether its leaders today take a shortsighted approach to governing or choose to invest for the long term. With an estimated $24 billion budget shortfall this legislative session, lawmakers will be facing tough decisions that will have a ripple effect for future generations. “I hope that we don’t get into across-the-board cuts,” says Perryman. “When there’s budget cuts, education always seems to take it on the chin. We need some real leadership to prioritize our needs and make some tough decisions.”

If state leaders don’t make those tough decisions now, future generations could be less educated, less economically competitive, have higher levels of poverty and be in greater need of government assistance. It’s up to the state’s leadership and its people to reverse that course.

Sadly, this is the leadership we’ve got, and we all know what to expect from it. This will be Rick Perry’s legacy.

Texas keeps growing

Texas has four of the fastest-growing cities in the country, according to current Census reports.

Among cities with more than 100,000 residents, four of the top 10 that experienced the greatest percentage increase in population were in Texas: Frisco, McKinney, Round Rock and Lewisville.

The population growth was tabulated from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009.

Frisco, a wealthy suburb of Dallas, saw a 6.2 percent population spike, making it the fastest-growing big city in the U.S. New York City had the largest increase in population, going from 8.34 million to 8.39 million.

Steve Murdock, a former director of the Census Bureau and now a professor at Rice University, said Texas’ growth was likely due to the state’s ability to dodge the worst of the economic crisis, as well as its growing immigrant population.

“Diversity and growth go together, and Texas has one of the most diverse populations in the country,” Murdock noted, adding that the data is “really is just verification of growth of this decade.”

For what it’s worth, Texas’ ability to ride out the recession is a function of natural resources. Houston’s population is 2,257,926, meaning we have grown over 14% in this decade.

Rhetoric is the easy part

There are two things that I wonder about as I read this story about poverty and the Texas schools and the alarming trends we’re seeing in things like the dropout rate. First and foremost, will anyone ever listen to former State Demographer Steve Murdock?

The state’s public schools have more and more low-income kids and persistently high dropout rates – and unless that changes, the future of Texas will contain more long-term unemployment and poverty – and more folks depending on food stamps, Medicaid and CHIP, Murdock said. Higher incarceration rates also can be expected.

“Clearly, with the dismal levels that we have in terms of education right now, that’s clearly where we’re headed,” Murdock said.

[…]

If nothing changes, average Texas household incomes will be about $6,500 lower in 30 years than they were in 2000, according to Murdock’s projections. That number is not adjusted for inflation, so it would be worse than it appears.

“It frightens me because it makes it difficult for Texas to achieve the things that all Texans want to achieve – that is, to be very competitive, to be an economic leader in the country and world,” Murdock said.

He sees only two solutions: Texas must do more to prepare preschoolers and must boost grants to provide financial help for college.

“The data seems to show that if a kid walks into a learning situation for the first time when they are 5 or 6, that’s probably too late,” he said.

None of this is new. We’ve always known what we need to do. Steve Murdock has been talking about this for a long time.

Which brings me to the second thing: What is Bill Hammond’s policy prescription for bringing about the result he says he prefers?

“Every kid deserves to be educated, and we’re going to figure out what it takes and do it,” said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. “The only way we will turn around public education in Texas is for the business community to realize that their future is at stake.”

[…]

Hammond, head of the Texas business group, noted that much of the state’s leadership looks like him – Anglo – and said they “do not understand that in 20 years time, their children are going to face a bleak future in spite of the fact that they have a college education because there are not going to be enough educated workers to move the economy ahead.”

As I said, we know what needs to be done. Murdock summed it up above for those who need to hear it again. You may notice that the things Murdock listed will cost money, more money than we’ve been spending, and much more than we’re likely to spend in the upcoming biennium thanks to the current budget situation, and more importantly the structural deficit the Lege created in 2006 when it passed that ginormous unaffordable property tax cut. Bill Hammond knows this, whether he wants to admit it or not. What I know is that Hammond has been busy advocating a constitutional amendment that would make it impossible to ever provide for Texas public education in a way that Hammond seems to say it needs. What I’d like to know is what Hammond wants to do to make sure every kid gets the education he says they deserve. Does he agree with Steve Murdock? If so, how does that jibe with his call for a constitutional amendment to severely restrict revenue growth? If not, what is his preferred approach? Just saying “we’ve got to figure it out”, especially when you advocate other policies that would prevent the solutions that others have already figured out from ever being practical, is a cop-out. Hammond clearly understands what’s at stake here. The question is whether or not he supports taking action to deal with it, and whether or not he supports candidates for office who support taking action to deal with it. What say you, Bill?

More on our Hispanic future

It’s not looking as good as it should.

Data from a variety of state and federal sources show the Hispanic population in Texas is economically stagnating and may be falling behind Latinos in other parts of the United States:

• • Texas Hispanics not only make less money than Anglos, they make less money than Hispanics living in other states. The wage gap is broadest for Hispanics living on the border with Mexico, according to a report of Southwest Economy published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

• • Hispanics make up a third of the manual laborers in Texas. But U.S. Census statistics show that even in construction trades Hispanics account for less than a fifth of skilled labor, such as an electrician.

• • In February, 34 percent of all Texans receiving unemployment payments from the Texas Workforce Commission were Hispanic. The payments are not available for undocumented workers.

• • Texas native-born Hispanics have a higher high school dropout rate and a lower level of college attainment than those living in other states, Southwest Economy reported. The attrition rate among Hispanic high school students was 42 percent last year.

• • Hispanic girls accounted for 62 percent of all births to teen mothers in 2006, the most recent year reported by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The good news is that if you equalize for education, Hispanics earn about as much as Anglos. The problem, of course, is that Hispanics aren’t doing nearly as well educationally, especially in terms of the dropout rate. And as things stand now, we’re not going to do anything about that next session, and as long as we’re in denial about the underlying financial situation, we’re not in a position to do anything about it any time soon. Once again, here’s former state demographer Steve Murdock:

By [20]23 or [20]24, we’re talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I’m going to have—fire, police, and other services—depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

It’s everybody’s future we’re talking about. What do we want to make of it?

Our Hispanic schools

Take a look at the future.

If you want to see how profoundly the state’s population is changing, look at the faces of the children in Texas public school classrooms.

In all but rural areas, Hispanic enrollment is rapidly surpassing that of whites. Hispanic schoolchildren make up nearly 49 percent of Texas’ 4.8 million pre-K through 12th-grade students, according to the Texas Education Agency. About one-third of students are white.

Demographers have long projected dramatic population changes for Texas, and the state’s leaders have acknowledged the economic, social and political impact they will have — but hardly ever in the present tense. Now, they must confront the realization that the state is not adequately funding the education of a growing population that is generally poorer and less proficient in English.

“We were warned about this,” said Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. “You look at the future, but you don’t think it’s going to be now.”

Texas has been a minority majority state for several years now, so none of this should come as a surprise. In fact, we saw a similar report from the TEA last year. Really, this isn’t even news, in the sense that it isn’t new. It’s just finally starting to sink in for some people.

Which makes the timing of our budget crisis all the more unfortunate.

During the past decade, enrollment from low-income families has grown to 2.8 million, or nearly 59 percent of all students. The number of English-language learners has increased to nearly 816,000.

Both types of students are more expensive to teach.

[…]

Key lawmakers already are warning they will not seek new taxes next year to address a severe state budget shortfall. But shortchanging education is not a smart response, some observers say.

“Education is not something we do for children. Education is something we do to children for society. This demographic is an asset — if it’s educated. It’s a liability if it’s not,” said Scott McCown, executive director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

But McCown warns that Texas cannot meet its growing education demands with the current tax system.

“It’s not the best time to be talking about investing in the future, but, nonetheless, we have to begin a serious study about revising that state’s tax system,” McCown said. “We are not keeping up with enrollment growth and inflation in public education, much less providing the money to meet higher standards and closing the dropout rate.”

As noted before, we know what we need to do, we just have to be willing to do it. Money we’re not investing in education now is money we’ll be spending later, on social services and the criminal justice system. It’s terribly short-sighted, yet the almost certain outcome of the next legislative session will be cuts to the education budget. And even if that’s only a small step backwards instead of a giant one, we’ll still have a structural deficit that we continue to be unwilling to talk about, much less solve. But that’s where we are, and the future be damned.

A decade ago, former state demographer Steve Murdock warned that the average household income in Texas would drop by around $6,500 by the year 2040 from 2000 levels unless the education trend line changed.

“I see no signs of a reversal in such trends,” said Murdock, now on the faculty of Rice University. “The demographics are very overpowering, and we clearly show signs of falling farther behind. It is, as we have noted, the major challenge to Texas’ future.”

Here was Murdock saying the same things five years ago:

By [20]23 or [20]24, we’re talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I’m going to have—fire, police, and other services—depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

I wish I felt optimistic about that, but I don’t. Too many people in our state government have demonstrated by their actions and priorities they just don’t care about it. I just hope it won’t be too late by the time we have enough people in government who do care.

Census forms start arriving next week

Fill out those forms and send them back, because redistricting and all that it entails will follow close behind.

Experts’ early looks at Census estimates point to a potential new congressional district in northwest Harris County. That could be alluring to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who represents the area in the Legislature.

A new Hispanic-majority congressional district is likely to find a home along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.

Another Hispanic-majority district probably will land in Dallas County. But because of population shifts to the suburbs, Dallas likely will lose a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

The location of a fourth congressional district for Texas will be the subject of political debate a year from now.

I had always been under the impression that the fourth seat would be down along the Rio Grande. If you take a look at Steve Murdock’s map of where the population growth has been in Texas, it’s pretty obvious, as the four locations correspond to the three places mentioned in the Chron story, plus the southernmost border counties. That would very likely be a Democratic seat, which won’t go over too well with the Republicans, who will as the story notes try to make up for it by taking aim once again at Rep. Chet Edwards. Obviously, there are far too many factors involved here to give any kind of accurate projection of what will happen, but some things you can see coming from miles away.

Of course, for South Texas to have any hope of getting a new Congressional seat, there has to be a thorough count. The State of Texas hasn’t exactly been out in front of the issue.

With Census Day just a few weeks away, Texas finally has a point person to coordinate the state’s push for complete participation by its residents in the project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador.

[…]

For months, Hispanic civil rights groups, border city and county officials and state legislators have been urging Perry to get involved in Census 2010 by forming a statewide Complete Census Count Committee. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have argued that Perry could have been better utilizing the enormous resources state agencies have to promote full participation in the Census. Up until now Perry has resisted such calls.

MALDEF staff attorney Luis Figueroa pointed out that more than 35 states have so far set up Complete Census Count Committees. “Obviously, with all the obstacles that we have, such as the hard to count communities and the colonias, Texas is really a state that needs to be proactive with the census,” Figueroa said.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was the first elected official in Texas to call on Perry to set up a statewide Complete Census Count Committee.

“The stakes are high,” Villarreal said, in a letter to Perry last October. “Promoting participation in the census will improve our state’s chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves. If we succeed, we will receive more of our own tax dollars back from the federal government, easing our ability to meet our needs in transportation, education, health and human services and other ideas.”

Villarreal’s letter prompted calls in the Guardian in November for Perry to set up a statewide Complete Count Committee. The calls came from Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Keith Patridge.

Here’s a copy of the letter Villarreal sent to Perry back in October, and here’s a story from February in which Villarreal called on Perry again to take this step. I know Perry’s been busy lately fighting off the depredations of the federal government single-handedly, but if he had the time to do this now, he had the time to do it six months ago. It just wasn’t a priority for him. A release from Villarreal about Perry’s appointment of Andrade is beneath the fold, and Texas Politics has more.

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