More than 800 people packed the Hilton Americas to hear the Kinder Institute reveal the results of its annual Kinder Houston Area Survey, which painted a portrait of a city that's undergoing a dramatic shift in both its demographic and political outlook.
The survey, now in its 34th year, indicated that growing numbers of Houstonians are interested in living in dense, urban environments, and they increasingly view transit as a solution to traffic problems that have long-plagued the city.
The study also highlighted data showing the dramatic growth of black, Latino and Asian-American communities in the region. Today, Harris County is just 32 percent Anglo.
"Where Houston is today is where all of America will be in 25 to 30 years," said Dr. Stephen Klineberg, the institute's founding director.
It’s a change Houstonians appear to be embracing. About 59 percent of respondents said increasing immigration strengthens, not threatens, American culture. That’s up from just 47 percent who answered the same way in 2011.
The study also showed that Houstonians have strong, positive feelings about the local economy. About 69 percent of area residents rated local job opportunities as "good" or "excellent," even in the face of plummeting oil prices.
The survey's release coincided with the Kinder Institute's annual fundraising luncheon which generated over $335,000 in contributions and netted twice the amount as the 2014 event.
The Kinder Institute also revealed its ambitious plans for growth. Bill Fulton, who became the institute's director last year, said it will ramp up its efforts in urban governance, transportation and urban planning, among other areas. It also intends to become a hub for knowledge about cities across the U.S. Sunbelt, since most research about cities is focused on the East Coast, Fulton said.
"Every human problem is an urban problem," Fulton said, emphasizing why the institute’s work matters.
Channel 13 anchor Melanie Lawson emceed the downtown luncheon, which also featured a prayer by Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez to honor the late Rev. T.J. Martinez, who served as a member of the Kinder Institute's Advisory Board until his death last year.