Research tells us this: The population of Texas will continue to grow, whether the state continues to attract people from other states and countries or not. And there will be no stopping the demographic tide that began rolling in decades ago—almost 84 percent of people in the Houston metro area will be members of a minority racial or ethnic group by 2050, according to one estimate, up from 60 percent in 2010.

Why do we need to know that?
Social and economic opportunity is about the American Dream,” said Jim Granato, executive director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs, which reported those and other details in its latest population study. Another new report on social mobility from the Hobby School details how residents in various parts of the state are faring on a variety of metrics—poverty, teen pregnancy, education and health status, among others. Students in the Rio Grande Valley had the lowest scores on standardized tests, for example, while those in the Austin area had the highest.

Declining opportunity isn’t good for Texas or for the people who live here. But it is critical for the state’s policymakers to have that and other data in order to make decisions for the future.

UH sociologist Luis Salinas sees a few key changes that will require attention from policymakers:

  • The proportion of population 65 years of age or older will increase from 10.3 percent in 2010 to 17.4 percent in 2050 if immigration continues at levels seen in the first decade of the century. “That’s a very different looking population,” Salinas said. “Retirees will require different services than younger people. A lot of these individuals will be living alone.”
  • Immigration is likely to continue. That, too, will affect what services we need, as well as how they are delivered. The ability to provide various services in different languages will be increasingly important, Salinas said.
  • Even as the percentage of the youth population shrinks, overall population growth means the raw numbers will remain stable and increasingly made up of minority children. There will be little need to close schools.
  • Three out of every four Texans will live in a metro area by 2050. Dallas-Fort Worth will remain the largest, with as many as 16.3 million residents, followed by Houston- The Woodlands-Sugar Land, with as many as 14.2 million residents if immigration remains high.

Researchers from the Hobby School work on a range of public issues, from Voter ID and political polling to these demographic projections.

Providing on-going information about social and economic mobility, as well as updated demographic information about the state’s residents, is a major initiative for the School, Granato said.

“Our mission is to serve the state of Texas,” he said. “Policymakers at all levels, from city and regional planners to members of the Legislature, need to have reliable, up-to-date information in order to make the best decisions for the state’s future.”