Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Houston and NY = America's Diversity Cities

Interesting article in the NY Times today about the changing demographics of the NY metro area, which happens to include a couple Houston references. The headline is that non-hispanic whites will dip below 50% of the NY metro area very soon (something that occurred within NY city quite a while back). The chart at the right lists some of the biggest numerical gainers and losers over the beginning of this century. You can see a definite trend out of expensive cities to ones with a far lower cost-of-living, especially housing.

Here are the Houston-relevant excerpts:
What makes the city and the region unusual, though, is that among the nation's 88 metropolitan areas with half a million or more people, New York is one of only three — Houston and Honolulu are the others — where the proportion of blacks, Hispanics and Asians each exceeds their share of the national population.

(Honolulu has more blacks and Hispanics than the national average? That didn't sound right, so I went to the Brookings report the article is based on: Honolulu is a rare NYT editing error in this sentence. Here's the real stat: "In New York and Houston, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all account for shares of the population exceeding their share nationally. Honolulu boasts perhaps the most unique racial composition, with a large over-representation of Asians, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and persons who claim two or more races.")


What's happening in New York has already occurred in metropolitan areas in the West and South, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and San Francisco.

The proportion of whites has also dipped to just over a majority in the San Diego, Washington, Dallas and Las Vegas metropolitan regions as Asian and Hispanic people disperse beyond central cities and their suburbs and as blacks migrate to the South. In each of those areas, whites are already a minority of the population under age 15.

Atlanta led large metropolitan areas in black population growth and is poised to overtake Chicago as the region with the second-highest black population in total numbers, after New York.
The article is based on a recently released Brookings report. Here are a few Houston-related factoids from that report:
  • In absolute numbers, Houston is the 5th largest US metro for Hispanics, 10th for Asians, and 9th for blacks (we're the 7th largest metro overall).
  • In absolute gains during 2000-2004, Houston is the 5th fastest-gaining US metro for Hispanics, 8th for Asians, 5th for blacks, and 8th for whites. Somewhat surprisingly, Dallas is gaining slightly ahead of us in all four groups.
  • On a percentage basis, we're the 15th fastest growing large metro (9.3% 2000-04). Everybody growing faster than us is quite a bit smaller than us except for DFW at 14th/9.7%.
  • Harris County is the third largest county in the nation at 3.64 million in 2004. Maricopa/Phoenix may pass us in just a few more years if their scorching growth rate holds up. Of the 15 largest counties, only LA, Maricopa, and Riverside-CA are growing numerically faster than Harris County.
  • The Houston metro area is 45% white, 16% black, 32% Hispanic, and 5% Asian, qualifying us for 7th on their "Large Melting Pot Metros" list.
  • It's not just Hispanics and blacks: We are tied for the largest Asian percentage (5%) of any urban area between the two coasts (east of Vegas, west of DC) along with Chicago and Minneapolis.
  • A little random trivia: you might expect Salt Lake City to be the leading non-diverse "whitesville" of the West. Wrong. It's Smart-Growth-Mecca Portland at 80% white to SLC's 79%.
It's worth skimming the whole pdf. There are some cool USA demographic maps with color-coded counties.


At 8:27 AM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


As a Houston booster and reader of this blog, I believe that Houston is slightly more "dynamic" than DFW on the important leading indicators. How do I reconcile that with the fact that DFW has been growing a little faster than H-town despite being a slightly bigger "community".

At 9:53 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

It is a little surprising, esp. considering that DFW was really hit hard by the tech bubble bursting and has substantially lagged Houston in job creation. But I will proceed to speculate.

DFW is more "controlled" than Houston, since they have zoning. I think this makes Houston more dynamic, but a lot of people like safety, predictability, and control. We have The Woodlands, Sugar Land, and a few other controlled places, but they have literally dozens of equivalent small cities. These places are very attractive when they're new, but have a hard time turning around once they start to decline. Houston has more of a renewal advantage in the long-term.

I also think our hot+humid summers and refinery-row air pollution reputation are moderate negatives. Dallas certainly gets hotter in summer and colder in the winter on the themometer, but they have the "dry heat" going for them in the summer: sweat actually cools you off. No doubt, most people find it more pleasant than our summers.

They also have more lakes and somewhat more attractive terrain.

That said, Houston's core is far, far healthier than Dallas', which is at risk of becoming a milder version of the next Detroit (stagnant core, thriving suburbs). We're doing a great job overcoming our inherited negatives, and we're on a good trajectory. Growth rate, although extremely important, is not the end-all-be-all metric for a healthy city.

At 10:14 AM, March 08, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

One more overlooked advantage for DFW:

One growth factor people tend to overlook is simple geography. Young people tend to move from smaller towns and more rural areas to the nearest major city to make their life and career (trying to stay within a day's drive of their parents). DFW's "draw zone" is huge, stretching for hundreds of miles in all directions before running into potential major-metro competitors like Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta. Houston, because we're on the Gulf Coast, has a more constrained "draw zone".

At 4:41 PM, March 08, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

Nice concept of the draw zone. It applies to me since i'm from a small town southwest of New Orleans which is only 4.5-5 hours away by car. I moved here for work after I graduated college in 2002. From my college town in Ruston, Lousisiana (northern part of state), Dallas was only 3.5-4 hours away and was a logical choice. Dallas companies heavily recruited at the university. I ended choosing Houston because it offered more of what I wanted than Dallas. Houston, after I did a little more research and visited it, had a much more rounded appeal than Dallas. I felt I could LIVE in Houston and be more at home than Dallas. When I visited Dallas (about 20 time during college), it just felt a little less open and inviting.

Some people go on at how Houston doesn't have the touristy options available for visitors, but the truth is that visitors don't make a city, the citizens do. If you live here, you can find lots to do. I kind of like not having to many tourists around. Growing up in Louisiana even in my small town, tourists are everywhere. Before Katrina, many New Orleans tourists would take day trips to the surrounding areas.

Another component to Houston that attracted me was that is also home to many former south Louisianians who moved for work. My Cajun Heritage can easily be found in Houston.

At 5:07 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say the boundaries of a "draw zone" are not set purely by geography. Often, people have some choice of cities to head to -- if you're in West Texas, for example, you might head west to Phoenix, north to Denver, or west into Texas. In the end, you head not just to the nearest big city but to where your friends are going. And I do think Dallas has an edge on us their because of image. When my wife was graduating law school at UT, a lot of her fellow students wanted to stay in Austin, and a lot were drawn to Dallas, but relatively fewer were interested in Houston. The Houston law firms ended up having to sell their city as much as their firms. These attitudes weren't based on some sort of analysis of the legal markets -- they were based on some sort of basic perception that Dallas was a better city.

At 6:36 PM, March 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

comments are cool, but all i have to say about the percentages of races in cities that was the lead is


At 6:17 PM, March 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing is, the tech bubble hurt Dallas because they actually have high tech industries. Tech industries are a diverse group, while a huge proportion of our job growth is in energy, which, once oil becomes problematic will become our version of the Detroit motor city.

Outside of Austin, Dallas is generally (and unfortunately) perceived to be the 2nd nicest city in Texas. While one can argue with this fact easily, that doesnt change the perception. It helps that Dallas doesnt have the smog and Enron stigma , but ultimately our city has done a terrible job of selling itself to young people, which is why most of the young talent in TX tends to stay on I-35 between Austin and Dallas unfortunately.

At 10:13 PM, March 09, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

> a huge proportion of our job growth is in energy, which, once oil becomes problematic will become our version of the Detroit motor city.

I actually heard a pretty senior Fed economist last night talk about Houston as an "engineering city" with a knowledge economy, and that, if oil and gas technology goes by the wayside (a long way off, IMHO), those companies and engineers will adapt to whatever the new energy infrastructure is: solar, hydrogen, ethanol, nuclear, whatever. It's all big capital investments and distribution.

I will absolutely agree that Austin and Dallas have done a better job managing their "brand".


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