Urban Review: Maternal mortality, suburban growth and a Houston model for Cleveland transit


This week, a look at the latest responses to the new study on Texas maternal mortality rates, a deep dive into growth in the Houston area and Houston as a model for Cleveland.

Houston metro bus

This week, a look at the latest responses to the new study on Texas maternal mortality rates, a deep dive into growth in the Houston area and Houston as a model for Cleveland.

Title Page

2020 census will ask about same-sex marriages for the first time. Pew Research Center.


More questions than answers in Texas maternal mortality study, lawmakers say. Texas Tribune.

In the wake of a study that found the state overcounted the number of Texas women who died from pregnancy complications in 2012, state legislators are cautiously moving forward.

They expressed a mixture of surprise, relief, frustration and piqued curiosity after an Obstetrics & Gynecology medical journal study published Monday revealed that a new state methodology for counting and confirming maternal deaths reduced the number of Texas mothers who died in 2012 from 147 to 56.

Executive Summary

In a city whose urban credentials are questioned constantly, it's not surprising that the latest Census numbers suggest that it's actually suburban growth that's driving increases in many metropolitan areas. A deeper dive by Kinder Institute director Bill Fulton found that to be the case in Houston, where Harris County's declining growth rate stands in contrast to what's happening in surrounding suburban counties. In his analysis he found:

In the last two years, the four suburban counties have exceeded Harris County’s raw population growth. A few years ago, Harris County was adding almost 100,000 people per year while the four suburban counties were adding around 60,000. Last year, the suburban growth slowed somewhat, to around 53,000. But it was still way more than Harris County’s growth, which dropped to only 35,000 – a third of what it had been only two years before.

So what of the urban and particularly downtown "revival" and those Millennials leading the charge? As Joel Garreau, the man behind the term "edge city," told Citylab in a recent interview, "Yes, in six cities it’s happening, where the children of the people who read The New York Times live,” he said. “But I’m a numbers guy, and you’ll find that the vast majority of Millennials don’t live in the old downtowns but in the suburbs, like sensible human beings. Because that’s where the jobs are, or where their parents’ basements are if they don’t have a job.”

And suburbs have been responding, catering to the demand for more walkable spaces while reimagining what that means in a suburban setting. One Chicago suburb has even gone as far as a marketing campaign complete with comic strips featuring hip Millennials declaring things like, "Everything we're doing is literally blocks from our house," and "On Sunday, I'm logging some time at the rock climbing gym, and then brunch at the new farm-to-table cafe." As Amanda Kolson Hurley writes, the campaign suggests suburbs are having to compete where they once didn't, particularly for young families.

In the case of Houston, it seems to be a bit of both. The metropolitan area is continuing to spread and sprawl but there's also densification occurring in its urban core. That latest Census numbers are perhaps a bit of a wake up call about which is leading, but clearly there's need for understanding how both settings can improve quality of life issues while growing inclusively.


Cleveland's transit system might need to take some inspiration from Houston, that's the argument of a recent piece in Cleveland magazine: Road Warriors: The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority may soon be in trouble. We need a big, inspirational idea to save it.

Until now, GCRTA’s problems have been largely contained to the world of transit advocates, riders and Twitterati. But soon, the transit authority will likely need to take its problem to all of Cuyahoga County’s voters.

Before that happens, we should glean a lesson from Houston. When a region believes in its transit system and creates excitement about its potential, good things can happen. GCRTA must realize its power and stand for something larger than its own survival. Doing so will help it through the gauntlet of voter approval.




Mailing Address

6100 Main St. MS-208
Houston, TX 77005-1892

Subscribe to our e-newsletter

Physical Address

Rice University
Kraft Hall
6100 Main Street, Suite 305
Houston, TX 77005-1892

Featured Sponsor

Support the Kinder Institute