This week here at the Kinder Institute, we’re focusing most of our attention on the annual Kinder luncheon, which will take place Thursday at the Hilton Americas downtown. We expect more than 700 people to attend – and I hope to see you there. If you still haven’t signed up to attend the annual Kinder Institute luncheon on Thursday, there’s still time. Just go here to buy a table or an individual ticket: http://kinder.rice.edu/luncheon/
This year’s luncheon is especially exciting. Not only will Dr. Stephen Klineberg be presenting the results of the 34th annual Kinder Housing Area Survey, but we’ll also be rolling out a new and ambitious program for the Kinder Institute’s work on urban issues.
If ever there was a time to focus on urban issues – in Houston and around the world – it’s now. For the first time in human history, most people in the world live in large cities. And all of the people who will be added to the world’s population in the next 20 years – that’s 2 billion people – will live in cities.
The move toward cities is a worldwide story, but it’s also a Texas story and a Houston story as well. Last year, one of our every 15 people added to the United States population was located in Houston. Our metro population is close to 7 million people – bigger than the metro populations in Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, or Washington. D.C.
Similarly, last year nine of our every 10 new residents in Texas lived in the “Big Four” metro areas – Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. With two-thirds of the population living in those four metro areas, Texas is undeniably an urban state.
All this urban growth in Houston and other cities has great prosperity – but also great challenges.
For example, the divide between rich and poor is greater than ever. Just the other day, I attended our annual Community Bridges celebration, honoring Rice students who have done important work for community organizations in the Fifth Ward. The work these kids do is inspiring – but it is heartbreaking to see such poverty within view of Houston’s downtown skyscrapers.
Houston’s continued growth has also brought with it great challenges in education, health, transportation, governance, and many other issues.
These are the issues the Kinder Institute will take on over the next few years, as well as seek to establish ourselves as the pre-eminent urban think tank in the Sunbelt. We’ll be engaging in lots of research – including “Big Data” analysis – to understand Houston’s urban problems. We’ll be daylighting longstanding issues so people can understand them and talk about them in an informed way. And we’ll be working with all of you – the civic and political leadership in Houston – to make sure that the solutions we identify will be implemented on the ground in the real world.
There’s never been a more exciting or challenging time for Houston. And there’s never been a more exciting time at the Kinder Institute. I hope you can come to Thursday’s luncheon. Even if you can’t, I hope you stay engaged in what we’re doing as we embark on what we call our “Path Forward”. Look for more details in future issues of Urban Edge and on the brand-new web site we’ll be unveiling later this week. I can’t wait to talk more with you about what’s going on.