March 25, 2008

Professor Stephen L. Klineberg Offers Future Projections on the Houston and Texas Immigration Situation

On March 8, 2008, Stephen L. Klineberg, Professor of Sociology at Rice University, spoke at the ACLU of Texas 70th Anniversary Conference where he highlighted his research over two and a half decades and the changing demographics in Texas, most specifically, in the Houston area. To see information about the Houston Area Survey that Professor Klineberg has been conducted since 1982, click here.

Professor Klineberg suggests that Texas has a burgeoning diversity which is a tremendous asset to the State. However, unless educational differentials can be reduced between ethnic and immigrant groups and if Texans continue to live and work in segregated enclaves full of mutual misperceptions, Texas will not be able to fully capitalize on this diversity. Professor Klineberg surmised that in order for Texas to continue to be successful with its multi-ethnic society, the state will need to grow more unified and inclusive with a commitment to civil rights and full participation for all residents. In nearly three decades of researching demographics in the Houston area, which began at approximately the same time as the oil bust in the 1980s, Klineberg believes that the traditional ‘blue collar’ approach to financial security has predominately disappeared. Almost all good-paying jobs now require higher levels of education and technical skills. With this in mind, consider the following below history and statistics as presented by Professor Klineberg.

It was not until the past decade that the United States surpassed the 1900’s high level of immigrants to the United States, which, at the time, was almost exclusively comprised of individuals of European decent. According to the U.S. Census, immigration levels were at a historical low during the Great Depression and it has taken nearly 70 years to rebound to levels prior to the Great Depression. It is noteworthy that in the past few years, immigration has once again slowed, mostly due to Congressionally-imposed caps on various types of immigrant categories.

Additionally, until 1965, it was virtually impossible for any non-Anglo individual to immigrate to the United States. In fact, it was not until 1965, when President Kennedy announced that the United States was no longer a ‘racist nation,’ were immigrant visas to the United States available to other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa. As immigration is primarily based and sponsored on the basis of family reunification or employment, and because those from Africa and Asian nations had no family with whom to reunify, beginning in the late 1960s, those individuals primarily immigrated to the United States based on employment and had high levels of education. They mostly came from predominant and educated families. In the meantime, individuals from areas such as Europe and Central America often had relatives whom could apply on their behalf. Professor Klineberg uses Houston as a model for the rest of Texas and believes that while Houston is a few years ahead of Texas in general, Texas demographics frequently follow that of Houston within a few years. In 1960, the U.S. Census showed that Houston was 73.9% Anglo, 19.3% Black, 6% Hispanic, and 0.3% Asian and other groups. Since that time, however, the demographics have greatly changed both before and after the oil bust in the 1980s. Unlike other cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati, and others without such an immigrant surge, but who also suffered from an economic depression, such as the oil bust, Houston continues to thrive economically through a greater balance of groups of individuals working together. In 2006, Houston was estimated to be 36.9% Anglo, 18.4% Black, 38.2% Hispanic, and 6.5% Asian and other groups. Klineberg also points out that today’s seniors are primarily Anglos, with that number expected to double in the next 30 years. Therefore, the younger generation, which is predominately non-Anglo and less privileged will replace the baby boom generation. It is projected that by 2040, 80% of all Texans will be non-Anglos, primarily Blacks and Latinos.

Because of this shift in demographics, and considering a high school diploma no longer ensures financial security, it is important to look at educational and technical statistics for those populations. Currently, approximately 44.7% of individuals aged 14-29 in the Houston area are Hispanic. According to Klineberg’s Houston Area Survey, between 1997 and 2004, of all ethnic groups 36% of Asian Immigrants have a college degree, with another 25% having a post-graduate degree. This number was higher than all U.S.-born groups including U.S.-born Anglos, U.S.-born Blacks, U.S.-born Latinos and Latino immigrants. In fact, 50% of first-generation Latino Immigrants have less than a high school diploma and only 7% have a college degree. However, all groups of U.S.-born populations, whether Anglo, Black, or Latino, have approximately one-third percent of respondents with at least have some college education. Some attribute this to a process of assimilation for those individuals who were born in the United States, whether or not their previous generations had immigrated. In any case, within the past decade, the State of Texas rated last among all 50 states for individuals over the age of 25 who have a high school diploma. During that same time, Texas rated 35th for those over the age of 25 who had a college degree. This lack of education could greatly hinder Texas’ increased growth and prosperity in the future.

Professor Klineberg has also done extensive research on assimilation indicators among different immigrant groups. It is important to note that according to his research, beginning in 2004 when immigration reform and debates came to the forefront of politics, attitudes toward both diversity and immigration drastically took a downturn with increased negativity.

To read more about the Houston Area Survey, its findings, and methodology since 1982, click here. The website also has contact information for Professor Klineberg and information about his many publications and articles.

By Michelle Richart