Seeing Houston as the quintessential American city of today

A sociologist who has spent decades studying Houston argues that it illustrates the big changes in American society:

The essential thing to know is that Houston is at the forefront of America’s demographic revolution. Through most of its history, Houston was a biracial Southern city dominated by white men, who were riding the oil boom to continued prosperity until 1982.

After that year’s economic collapse, Harris County’s Anglo population stopped growing and then declined. All the growth over the last 30 years has been due to the influx of Latinos, Asians and African-Americans.

Houston has now become America’s most ethnically diverse metropolitan region. It is even more diverse than New York, coming closer than any large metropolitan area to having an equal division among Anglos, blacks, Latinos and Asians…

The first lesson is all of the United States will look like Houston and Texas in about 25 years.

So this is where the American future will be worked out. How we navigate that transition will be important not only for the future of Houston and Texas but for the American future.

Even as the shift in American population has been to Sunbelt metropolitan regions in recent decades, cities like Houston don’t seem to get attention proportionate to their size. On one hand, they don’t have the history of global influence as New York, LA, and Chicago. They are not viewed as cultural or media centers. On the other hand, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Austin, Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and others may better represent where America is headed. There are a lot of opportunities for sociologists to study such cities as they continue to grow, attract immigrants, and face new challenges.

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