A race- and age-diverse group of nearly 60 Galveston and Galveston County residents gathered Friday at Rosenberg Library to hear from Rice University professor Stephen Klineberg about changing demographics in the Houston-Gulf Coast region and what that change means for the future.
Galveston’s Juneteenth Sesquicentennial Committee hosted the gathering.
“When we first decided to bring Dr. Klineberg, some people asked ‘What does this have to do with celebrating the end of slavery?’” Melvin Williams, the committee’s chairman, said. “We can celebrate the end of slavery by preparing for a future where we all reach that glorious place of equality and prosperity for all.”
Klineberg and his students have conducted surveys for 37 years around the region measuring demographics and attitudes, concluding that Houston, of all American cities, best represents the nation’s inevitable future change from a majority amalgam of Europeans to a majority of non-Anglos from numerous ethnicities.
“All of our data show, and U.S. Census data show, that Anglos are progressively and overwhelmingly dominant in categories representing older ages, while younger Houstonians and Americans are increasingly not Anglos,” Klineberg said. “No force will change this inevitable reality of the aging Anglo demographic. There just aren’t going to be that many 65-year-olds having babies.“
In Galveston in 1990, 67 percent of the population was Anglo, 17 percent African American, 14 percent Latino and 2 percent Asian and other ethnicities. Now, the population breakdown is 58 percent Anglo, 13 percent African American, 24 percent Latino and 5 percent Asian and others.
Along the corridor from Houston to Galveston, an increasing number of communities have no single racial or ethnic majority, Klineberg said.
“The question is: How do we make this work? How does this generation react to this convergence?”
He posited three fundamental realities that the next generation will have to face: the rise of the knowledge economy, demanding better and more education for everyone; an epic demographic transition to a more ethnically diverse nation; and a “new salience of quality of place,” a concern that wherever we live, quality of life for everyone must be a priority.
Amid an era of stagnation of wages for the working class and increasing income inequalities, punctuated by a job market that requires at least some higher education or training beyond high school, Klineberg’s most recent surveys showed a major increase in public support for more government resources dedicated to public education — from 48 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2018.
Klineberg also noted a difference in attitudes among younger Anglos compared to their elders, especially regarding immigrants, how many should be admitted to the country and whether or not they strengthen American culture.
“Younger Anglos are taking for granted what older Anglos are struggling to accept,” he said.
Younger African Americans in the area still say they have personally experienced race discrimination, but don’t see that as a barrier to success, Klineberg said. He also noted that racial solidarity among African Americans supersedes income levels, unlike among Anglos and Latinos whose attitudes tend to change depending upon their income levels.