The Texas Challenge: Changing Ethnicity and Socioeconomic “Threats” – Insight from Changing Texas by Steve Murdock (and others)

I have just discovered a remarkable resource. The resource is the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. (Yes, I know I should have known about this Center, and its useful web site earlier).

Changing TexasHere’s how this started. I have finished reading Changing Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge by Steve H. Murdock, Michael E. Cline, Mary Zey, P. Wilner Jeanty, and Deborah Perez (College Station:  Texas A&M University Press, 2014). Steve Murdock is the Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, and his co-authors are demographers/researchers at the Hobby Center, except for Mary Zey, professor emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The book is a comprehensive look at the changing economy, racial/ethnic diversity, and socioeconomic challenges of Texas.

Short version: the changes coming over the next decades will present genuine challenges to the economic health and overall well-being of Texas. What are those changes? Take a look:

Population of Texas (I start with the year I was born, and jump forward to 1990):

Year Population
1950 7,711,194
1990 16,986,510
2000 20,851,820
2010 25,145,561
2050 (projected) 55,205,530

• Ethnicity in Texas
• short version – over the last two decades, the nonHispanic White population has grown less than 6.2% (6,2%, 4.2%); the Hispanic population has grown well over 40% (53.7%, 41.8%).

Ethnic Group 1990 2000 2010 Projected, 2050(“medium projection”) Projected, 2050(“high projection”)
nonHispanic White 10,291,680 10,933,313 11,397,345 11,376,576 12,024,913
Hispanic 4,339,905 6,669,666 9,460,921 22,268,390 30,701,208
nonHispanic Black 1,976,360 2,364,255 2,886,825 4,182,155 5,105,861
nonHispanic Asian, & Other 378,565 884,586 1,400,470 3,483,178 7,283,548

The fact is that the educational levels for the “minorities” are lower, and the socioeconomic levels are more also lower, than for nonHispanic Whites.  This is at the center of the Texas Challenge.

Here are the “conclusions” from just two of the chapters of this book:

Chapter 6 – Public elementary, Secondary, and Higher Education
(• Note: as population has increased, net expenditures have not kept up with the increase, resulting in a smaller amount of money per student over time. This is especially true in secondary education.)

  • “If Texas fails to adequately educate its growing population of minority students, the state will have a less well educated and a poorer population than it has today. However, if it can successfully educate this population, it could have a younger and more competitive workforce than the nation as a whole. The challenge is providing the resources necessary to ensure that Texas students and workers are competitive in the increasingly international workforce of the future.” (p. 132).

Chapter 7 – Health, Human, and Correctional Services in Texas
• “Texas is likely to require net immigration of health care personnel from other states to meet its needs in the coming years.” (p. 168).
(• Note: to exacerbate this problem — one finding is that 45% of all doctors currently educated in Texas leave Texas to practice medicine).
• “The future population of Texas is likely to show continuing patterns of substantial need… Due to the fact that aging and poorer minority populations are growing more rapidly than other components of the population, medical services are likely to involve increasing numbers of personnel and substantial increases in treatment costs. Meeting such needs will also substantially increase the demand for medical personnel and Texas may wish to take steps to educate a larger share of its own residents to address such demand.
Texas will also be required to pay for the needs of an increasing prison population.
Addressing such needs is among the most daunting challenges facing Texas.” (p. 171).

And, here from the last paragraph of the book, is a clear statement of the Texas Challenge:

Education is not the key; but, it is a key to changing the future of Texas…
We must be willing to consider and promote programs that help to bring the levels of socioeconomic resources of disadvantaged populations up to the levels of nonHispanic White populations without diminishing the socioeconomic resources of either disadvantaged or advantaged. This is a major challenge for Texas’ future. In fact, we argue that it is the Texas Challenge.”

For those who “are not into” tables of numbers, the book offers summaries and conclusions at the end of each chapter. These are clear, and well-written. In other words, if you are not a numbers person, you can grasp the implications without difficulty.

But, for those who do want to look closely at the numbers behind the conclusions, the book is a treasure chest of tables, comparisons, and contrasts.

And, then, after reading the book, I discovered the Hobby Center website. This is where you can spend a few hours and get quite an education.  Click here to visit the home page of the web site

And then, click here to view the PowerPoint slides from numerous presentations.

Steve Murdock, Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, Rice University
Steve Murdock, Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, Rice University

I especially liked the set of slides from The Future of Education (from Steve H. Murdock, the lead author of the book).  Look for The Future of Education topic under the pull-down menu on the “choose group” tab on the presentations page, to download the slides).

If you care about Texas – business in Texas, transportation in Texas, poverty in Texas, education in Texas – this book is your new starting point. Buy it, read it, and let it inform your next steps.




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