Miller Time
Mon November 26, 2007 6:07 pm

I overlooked a comment posted by Charles Miller, former chair of the University of Texas Board of Regents, to my report on the “Future of Houston” discussion at the Jones School of Management at Rice University. I’m going to publish his observations in their entirety:

Paul,

In regard to your becoming enlightened during your recent visit to Rice University to hear about “The Future of Houston”:

Did you hear anything about the demographic trends or the “new” knowledge based economy you didn’t already know? At least generally?

“Wives had to work to make ends meet”? How 1950’s an analysis. Work force participation by women is not exactly a calamity, is it?

“No city, no state has been transformed more irreversibly than Houston and Texas”. That’s unsubstantiated hyperbole. Have you been to Phoenix, Arizona lately? Or Detroit, Michigan? Or Atlanta, Georgia. Even Las Vegas, Nevada?

How provincial to think about Houston and Texas as some kind of exceptional place as far as “change” is concerned. The North Central and North Eastern states are hollowing out economically. Much of the Sunbelt is booming, in spite of or due to the “demographic trends”. The best growth rates are often in states with lower average personal income or with lower relative expenditures on higher education.

By the way, was there any discussion of Houston or Texas economic growth rates? Employment growth in Texas over the last decade is one of the highest in the nation, especially compared to large states like California. The Texas unemployment rate is below average. Aggregate economic performance in Texas has been superb, even by comparison to the other large world economies.

An example of relative economic prospects and a question: Wisconsin has a great public university system and its “demographic destiny” is over 86% non-Hispanic whites. Would you rather be an investor in Milwaukee’s real estate or Houston’s?

I get so tired of hearing this woe-is-us refrain about the supposed demographic problem, especially from academics or demographers. And journalists. The racial focus is a misdirection, as we will begin to see in the build up to the 2010 census.

By the way, in a more serious vein, what’s the population count of Californians in Austin? Now that’s a worrisome demographic trend. Wild Salmon wraps replacing Tex-Mex?

My post was taken straight from my notes and reflects what the two speakers said. I chose to publish their comments unfiltered (except for material that didn’t make it into my notebook), as I have done with Mr. Miller’s comments. I do have concerns about demographics, not due to the changes in ethnic percentages but rather due to the ability, or lack of it, of the public schools to educate non-English speakers. In any event, Charles Miller is one of the great public servants and wise men of our era, and I wanted to share his observations with a larger audience.

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