cover image Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America

Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America

Stephen L. Klineberg. Avid Reader, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7791-0

Rice University sociologist Klineberg debuts with a lucid, data-driven look at Houston, Tex., based on original research tracking the demographics, economic prospects, cultural attitudes, and politics of city residents over the past 38 years. Initiated in 1982, when Houston’s booming oil economy was drawing an influx of people as the rest of America suffered through a recession, Klineberg’s annual survey revealed a mix of liberal and conservative views: the majority of respondents supported gay rights, limited restrictions on abortion access, and environmental protections, but were also “more committed to the can-do work ethic” than the rest of the country. Analyzing survey results through the decades, Klineberg highlights the region’s monumental growth and its economic diversification after the oil boom collapsed, as well as the lack of upward mobility for poorer residents, most of whom are black or Latino. He also attributes the city’s robust nonprofit sector to inadequate public funding for schools and municipal services, as well as the religious beliefs and moral values of area residents. Interspersed with interviews of dozens of Houstonians, Klineberg’s meticulous research makes a strong case that Houston, with its growing inequalities, demographic shift to a nonwhite majority, and rising social and environmental consciousness, is at the forefront of America’s future. This eye-opening and accessible study deserves a wide readership. (June)