Founder of Kinder Houston Area Survey looks back on four decades of work

For more than four decades, late-Spring in Houston has included an important snapshot on how people's attitudes are evolving on a long-list of topics in the city. 

The Kinder Houston Area Survey is the kind of project that lets policymakers know they're on the right track, or have work to do, meeting people's needs. This year, the survey's founder is retiring and Dr. Stephen Klineberg says Houston was a very different place when the journey started.

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"When we first started it, there was no inkling whatsoever that I would ever do this again," Klineberg says about the first survey that was released in 1982. 

At the time, Houston was bursting at the seams, fueled by an oil boom that attracted nearly 1,400 new residents, every day, to well paying blue-collar jobs. The sociologist says there was a lot to consider as the city grew. 

"It was a one-time survey to measure how people are balancing this tremendous growth, with growing concerns about traffic, pollution, crime," recalls Klineberg, "What kind of city are we building with all this affluence?"

When the boom turned to bust, Houston lost 100,000 jobs, and a decades-long effort to chart evolving social dynamics, and concerns of those who call Houston 'home' started. 


Over the years, more than 50,000 Houstonians have weighed in on a wide range of topics to measure their comfort with what's happening around them. Recent years have left many feeling very challenged financially and socially, as the metro has become more diverse than any could have imagined, at the start. 

If those concerns are to be addressed, Klineberg says it's vital to know about them, first. 

"If Houston's going to make it in the 21st century, it has to become a destination of choice; a place where the best and brightest people in America, say, 'I want to live in Houston'," he says. "So you can see a city reinventing itself, reimagining, rethinking what it needs to do to position itself for prosperity in the very different world of the 21st century." 

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When Dr. Klineberg retires after this year's report, Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research is set to continue the study, with plans to expand into surrounding counties, as well.