This post is part of the Urban Edge blog's in-depth coverage of the 2017 Kinder Houston Area Survey.
If given the chance to move anywhere in the world, a striking number of Houstonians — 67.1 percent — said they would stay in Space City.
It’s an impressive figure, given that more often than not, people who move to Houston do so reluctantly, said Stephen Klineberg, founding director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and author of the Kinder Houston Area Survey. But soon after people get here, he said, they find reasons to stay.
“They often say at the beginning, ‘Yuck, the job is there. We’ll go for a couple of years,’” Klineberg said, describing a common experience of people who move to Houston for work. “And then they discover there’s lots of reasons to like the place.”
It’s the first time the Kinder Institute has asked this particular question in its annual survey, so it’s impossible to know how Houston is trending. But it’s no surprise that Houston – a relatively affordable big city with an expanding transit system, a restaurant scene that’s drawn national acclaim and a renewed focus on improved quality of life through parks, is drawing positive marks.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council expects steady growth for the eight-county Houston metropolitan area in the coming years. The regional population is forecast to hit 10 million by 2040, up from 5.8 million in 2010.
But at the same time, despite Houstonians’ assertion that they don’t want to move, recent census data may show otherwise. Between July 2015 and July 2016, Harris County added 56,587 people. It ended its eight-year run as the county with the biggest population gains, coming in second to Maricopa County in Arizona. The shift is largely due to folks moving out of Harris County. Approximately 16,000 more people moved away from Harris County to another county than moved into it during that time period. Because of both natural increases in population and international migration, Harris County only slipped by one spot and still ranks second in net population growth.
Interestingly, lifelong Houstonians and transplants reported almost the exact same ratings. About 66 percent of lifelong Houstonians said they’d choose to stay in the area, compared to 68 percent of people who’ve moved here.
Among those least likely to want to say here: the very rich and the very poor. Only 50 percent of those earning less than $12,500 per year said they’d want to stay in the area, and only 57 percent of those earning more than $100,000 said they would stay. For all other income groups, the rate of those preferring to stay put ranges from 67 percent to 76 percent.
The 2016 survey asked area residents to rate the region as a place to live. Overall, more than 80 percent of residents gave the Houston area a positive rating, saying it’s a “good” or “excellent” place to live. About 79 percent of Houston transplants gave the city a positive rating, while lifelong Houstonians gave more favorable evaluations, with 88 percent rating the Houston area “good” or “excellent.”
In no case did any racial/ethnic group or any income bracket give less than 72 percent positive ratings of Houston as a place to live.
Along the same lines, Texas’ satisfaction rate is comparable. Only 24 percent of residents say they would move out of the state, according to Gallup. Of course, this includes residents in cities like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, but it speaks to the affordability of living and the access Texans have to jobs.
Other Texas cities reported similar findings in terms of residents’ satisfaction with their cities.
About 84 percent of Dallas residents felt that its metropolitan area was an “excellent” or “good” place to live.
In San Antonio, 86 percent of residents rated the metropolis as an “excellent” or “good” place to live, according to a 2014 community survey.
Austin residents were a little less satisfied with their city; 80 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with Austin as a place to live in a 2016 community survey.