Texas must keep pace with socio-economic demands of growing population

New book from Rice sociologist examines issues related to future population change and socio-economic implications

Texas must keep pace with the educational and economic demands of its burgeoning population to avoid becoming poorer and less competitive nationally, according to a new book by Rice University sociologist Steve Murdock.


Drawing on nearly 30 years of prior analyses of growth, aging and diversity in Texas populations and households, Murdock and his co-authors examine key issues related to future Texas population change and its socio-economic implications in “Changing Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge.”

“It’s no secret that Texas is growing and diversifying at a rapid pace,” said Murdock, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology in Rice’s School of Social Sciences, director of Rice’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas and a former Texas state demographer and U.S. Census Bureau director. “However, poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are currently two to three times higher than those of non-Hispanic whites and Asians. In addition, 14 percent of African-Americans and 40 percent of Hispanics have less than a high school education.”

Murdock said that analysis of this data demonstrates that, in the absence of any change in the socio-economic conditions associated with the demographic characteristics of the fastest growing populations, Texas will become poorer and less competitive in the future.

“It’s inevitable,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way to avoid it if current socio-economic conditions remain unchanged.”

However, Murdock notes that such a future can be altered so that the “Texas Challenge” becomes a Texas advantage – leading to a more prosperous future for all Texans – with a few critical steps.

“Research has clearly demonstrated that across all ethnic groups, education pays, both for individuals and the state as a whole,” he said. “Education helps decrease poverty among individuals and leads to a stronger, more vibrant workforce, which will make Texas more competitive as a destination for business and industry.”

The book also offers important insights for the implications of Texas’ changing demographics for unemployment, health care needs, business activity, public funding and many other topics important to the state, its leaders and its people.

Murdock hopes that the book will inform governmental and private-sector policies that will have important implications for the future of Texas.

“Texas has much to look forward to if its leaders are willing to make the educational and economic investment in the citizens who live here,” Murdock said.

The book was co-authored by Michael Cline, P. Wilner Jeanty and Deborah Perez, all researchers at Rice’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, and Mary Zey, professor emerita at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

For more information on the book, visit www.tamupress.com/product/Changing-Texas,7847.aspx.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.