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Houston, Texas: An Example of America's Changing Population

Houston: Most Diverse Large City in US
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Houston: Most Diverse Large City in US

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America's population is becoming older and increasingly diverse - made up of people who are different from each other.

Nowhere are those differences more apparent than in Houston, Texas.

The city has seen an increase in the number of minority communities and is being called an example of future demographic changes across the country.


Houston was once a city with large numbers of whites and Hispanic Americans. Many of the Hispanics have family ties to nearby Mexico or Central American countries.

In 1980, around 52% of the total population was white or Caucasian. By 2010, whites represented about 25% of the total population – which grew from 1.6 million to 2 million in the same time period.

People from around the world came to Houston for one reason, a long time Houston resident told VOA: the chance to make money.

Today, the city claims to be the most diverse in the United States. For many locals, this has created a sense of pride. They feel good about themselves and their hometown.

Nikkie Vasquez lives in Houston.

"I'm Caucasian and my husband is Hispanic, and we have my beautiful mixed babies, and I think here it's welcome, and it's appreciated."

Lee Hsia is a religious leader at Houston's First Baptist Church. He moved to Houston from China when he was seven years old.

The First Baptist Church welcomes people, including non-Christians, from over 35 countries. "We have 'welcome' plastered through the front doors of our church," Hsia said.

Demographic changes

Stephen Klineberg is a founding director at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston. He notes that many whites living in Harris County, which includes Houston, are age 63 or older.

"63-year old Anglos are not going to be making a whole lot more babies. So you can go to the bank on this: no force in the world is going to stop Houston or Texas or America from becoming more African-American, more Asian, more Latino, and less Anglo as the 21st-century unfolds. Nothing in the world can stop that."

The United States Census Bureau gathers detailed information about the nation’s population every 10 years. It also releases population estimates every few years.

The last census, in 2010, showed that whites* made up 63.7% of the population nationwide. 2016 estimates show the same group now represents 61.3% of the population.

The Pew Research Center notes the percentage is likely to continue falling in the years to come.

Demographic changes are happening in other areas, too.

For example, the European Commission noted in a 2010 report that European Union countries also are experiencing changes. "Growth is fueled mainly by immigration, whereas the population is becoming older and more diverse,” it said.

Implications of Demographic Changes

Stephen Klineberg says the changes in Houston’s population are likely to continue. He wonders how the city – and the country – will react to future demographic changes. "There is a law of human nature that says what I am familiar with feels right and natural; what I am unfamiliar with feels unnatural, somehow not quite right," he said.

While recent arrivals are working toward the middle class, Klineberg notes a growing underclass of white people with low levels of education. Jobs in industries like coal and steel have disappeared.

"Every community is seeing a growing middle class and a growing underclass, simultaneously," he said. "And that underclass is the great question for the sustainability of Houston and America in the 21st century."

I'm John Russell.

Ramon Taylor wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

*Whites, not Hispanic or Latino


Words in This Story

demographic – adj. of or related to the study of changes in large groups of people

plaster – v. to place on something; to cover over

Anglo – n. short for Anglo-American; a white person

resident – n. someone who lives in a place

underclass – n. a social class made up of people who are poor and have little chance to improve their lives; the lowest social class

sustainability – n. the act of lasting or continuing for a long time