Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Texas State Demographer

Our slowing population growth

Noted for the record.

Texas remains one of the fastest growing states in the U.S., but a report published by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank showed a significant reduction in the number of people moving to Texas since 2015. That’s left employers — who are already having a difficult time finding workers amid historically low unemployment rates — in an even tougher position.

Since 2016, the share of population growth in Texas from people moving to the state is half of what it was previously. Each of Texas’ four largest metro areas — Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas — has experienced a reduction in domestic migration and overall population growth.

“We’ve seen really good growth, and yet we’re seeing slowing of migration — and that’s not because we’re less attractive. It’s because outside of Texas, things are also very good,” said Keith Phillips, senior economist at the San Antonio branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve.

In other words, the so-called Texas Miracle — the state’s unrivaled ability to create jobs and economic opportunity — now has rivals. Nationwide, most workers can find jobs if they want them, making a cross-country move to Texas in search of a paycheck less appealing.

In the five years from July 1, 2010, through July 1, 2015, Texas saw more than 138,000 people on average move to the state each year from elsewhere in the country. But from July 2015 to July 2018, Texas added just under 96,000 people each year from domestic migration — a 31 percent annual drop, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

[…]

Some industries — such as information technology — have a harder time finding workers than others.

David Heard, CEO of TechBloc, the San Antonio technology industry group, said the city has had difficulty standing out to potential workers among cities across the nation with promising tech industries, such as Nashville, Tenn., or Columbus, Ohio.

With tech workers in demand in metro areas across the nation, the decision often comes down to which city offers the best quality of life, Heard said.

“These people tend to get paid well,” he said. “Wherever they go, they’re in demand, so the issue is about how being competitive on salary and having job availability often aren’t what charge their decision. It really comes down to lifestyle issues.”

Most cities looking to attract tech workers and other “creatives” have been following the same gospel — investing in public and cultural amenities such as lush parks and concert halls to lure talent — for nearly two decades. The slowdown in migration to Texas makes the challenges for tech companies even more daunting.

The Dallas Fed projects that around 90,500 Americans will migrate to Texas from elsewhere in the country in 2019. That tops the 82,500 people who migrated to Texas last year, but it’s down from the years following the Great Recession, when 123,000 people on average came to the state annually.

“Domestic migration is usually an indication of employment opportunities or a lack thereof,” Lloyd Potter, Texas’ state demographer, said. “Essentially, it’s an indicator of a slowdown of at least one sector of the economy … The confusing aspect of it is that we have very low unemployment.”

Potter said the decline in people moving to Texas is difficult to parse because of the differing regional economies across the state.

We’ve talked about some of this before, in the context of Houston’s slowing population growth and the Latino population growth engine that keeps our state moving forward. I think it’s unlikely that these trends will continue over the longer term, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on this stuff and thinking about what underlying causes there may be. And it’s another reminder that a complete and accurate Census count is vital, because otherwise we’re just guessing. Sure would be a bad idea to let the Trump administration screw that up.

Houston’s up-and-down population growth

It was up and now it’s down.

San Antonio gained 24,208 residents between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, annual population estimates just released by the federal agency show. That amounts to an average of 66 people per day, the Census Bureau said.

The surge pushed the city’s population above 1.5 million for the first time. That marks an increase of almost 185,000 people in the city limits since the 2010 census.

San Antonio remains the seventh-largest city in the country. Its latest population estimate is 1,511,946.

[…]

By contrast, growth in Houston, which just a few years ago seemed poised to take over Chicago’s position as the third-largest city in the U.S., has hit a snag with fewer and fewer people moving there.

Houston added just over 8,000 residents, placing it seventh in growth among other Texas cities like Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas and San Antonio.

For five consecutive years from 2011 to 2015, Houston remained in the top three cities that had added the most people. But now the Bayou City — known for its sprawl and elastic economy — has fallen behind a trend that began in 2016 when Houston first showed signs of slowing down. The city recorded four consecutive years of averaging more than 30,000 new residents between 2011 and 2015.

[Texas State Demographer Lloyd] Potter says the substantial change in Houston growth is perplexing.

No demographic breakdown is available for the city population data just released, so there’s no way to know the ages, races, ethnicities or genders of San Antonio’s or Houston’s newest residents.

Couple things here. These are estimates based on available data, not on a count. They’re usually pretty good, but they’re not the official Census totals like what we will get next year, and they can be off by some amount. This is one reason why getting the most thorough and accurate count we can is so important, because every resident we overlook results in lost resources for the city. There’s no obvious reason for the deceleration – it could be just a blip – and it’s too soon to call it a trend, but it definitely bears watching.

Because, of course, Houston’s population growth affects its finances in more ways than just Census apportionments. The dumb and arbitrary formula used in the revenue cap combines population growth and inflation rate to set a limit on how much of a revenue increase the city is allowed to have. It doesn’t matter if new things are being built and old things are being renovated and upgraded, either we fall below the limit set by this number cooked up by the likes of Paul Bettencourt and Bruce Hotze or we are forced to throw away a few million dollars via a property tax rate cut that no one will notice. The whole point of the revenue cap is to constrain the city’s ability to provide services. It’s stupid policy pushed by people who did not and do not have Houston’s best interests at heart. And it has us stuck hoping this slowdown in population growth is just an aberration, because it will increase the pressure on our city finances if it is not.

Cities and suburbs up, rurals down

The story of Texas’ population.

Recently released data from the Texas Demographic Center spelled bad news for many rural areas in the state: populations there were still shrinking, or growing slowly.

Population growth in Texas remained concentrated in urban areas in 2016, according to the new numbers. That meant the fight continues for many small towns in Texas that are struggling to maintain or build their communities and economies.

The new estimates, released in late April, approximate population per county as of July 1, 2016. They were calculated using different methodology than U.S. Census Data estimates. Usually, the two are within range of each other, said Lloyd Potter, the state demographer.

State results confirm an ongoing trend in the second-most populous state in the country of movement toward urban centers and the booming suburban areas that surround them.

“Texas is growing more than any other state,” Potter said. “Those points are really where the bulk of the population growth is occurring.”

Here’s the Texas Demographic Center website. There’s a link to the 2016 Preliminary Population Estimates, though when I looked the 2016 data was not yet there. I’ll be interested to see how these numbers compare to the Census projections for Harris County. Nothing is official until the 2020 count is done, as problematic as that may be, but this is a preview of the redistricting to come. It’s never too early to start thinking about what the next set of maps will look like.

Everybody should be counted

The 2020 Census has big challenges, especially in Texas.

But even two years out from the 2020 count, local officials, demographers, community organizers and advocates say they are worried the census could be particularly tough to carry out in Texas this go-around.

They are bracing for challenges both practical — Hurricane Harvey displacement, internet accessibility and fewer funds with which to knock on doors — and political, namely anti-immigrant rhetoric and fears that a citizenship question will be included in the census questionnaire. Those issues aren’t insurmountable, officials say, but they will probably make Texas, which is already hard to count, even tougher to enumerate.

An accurate census is critical to the state. It is used to determine how many representatives Texas is entitled to elect to Congress. And the Texas Legislature and local governments rely on the data to redraw corresponding political boundaries.

The census also serves as a roadmap for the distribution of billions of federal dollars to the state and local communities, including funding for low-income housing, medical assistance and transportation projects.

But those working toward an accurate count in Texas are, in many ways, starting from behind. Massive in both size and population, Texas is home to millions of residents who fall into the categories of people who pose the biggest challenges for the headcount — immigrants, college students, children younger than 5 years old, to name a few.

After the 2010 census count, the U.S. Census Bureau found that most Texas residents live in areas that may be harder to count. Using a “low response score,” which is based on the likelihood that residents will not self-respond to a questionnaire, the bureau found that most Texas residents live in census tracts — geographic areas that include 1,200 to 8,000 residents — that exceed the national average for low response scores.

That’s particularly evident in areas with large shares of Hispanics and residents living in poverty, which are prevalent across the state.

“Certainly, we have populations that are hard to count — people whose first language isn’t English, people who have lower levels of educational attainment, people who move frequently,” state demographer Lloyd Potter said. “You have both recent immigrants and then, certainly, people who are unauthorized who are going to be wary of anyone who is knocking on their door and asking questions.”

That’s the chief concern among those working toward an accurate count in Texas.

Almost 5 million immigrants live in the state, and it’s estimated that about two-thirds are noncitizens — legal permanent residents, immigrants with another form of legal status or undocumented immigrants. Additionally, more than 1 million Texans who are U.S. citizens live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

Local officials, advocates and demographers for months have expressed grave concerns about the reception the 2020 census will receive among Texas immigrants who have likely followed years-long heated national and local debates over undocumented immigrants, immigration-enforcement laws like the one passed by the Texas Legislature last year and immigration crackdowns.

“Anyone close to this issue is really concerned. It’s an anti-immigrant environment,” said Ryan Robinson, demographer for Austin, which is home to 167,000 immigrants. “It’s always hard to count immigrants, but this is really going to be a tough issue.”

The fact that preparations for the Census are being done now by the understaffed and under-competent Trump administration isn’t making this any easier. Remember that the reason Texas got those four extra Congressional seats in the 2010 Census was our rapid growth due in large part to immigration. It would be quite ironic if we missed out on getting a seat or two because of a Census undercount that was the result of Republican legislative priorities. The Trib, Mother Jones, Texas Monthly, and Erica Greider have more.

Harris County’s growth slows

We’re still growing, we just didn’t grow as fast last year as we had in previous years.

After eight straight years of boom – adding more new residents than any county in the nation – Harris County in 2016 felt some of the oil bust’s sting.

The county gained a total of about 56,600 people last year, a decline of 37 percent from the previous year, placing it behind Arizona’s Maricopa County, which added nearly 81,400 new residents.

The decline was largely attributable to the fact that for the first time in years more people – about 16,000 – left Harris County than moved here from elsewhere in the country, according to Census data released Thursday.

Despite the losses, Harris County held on to its No. 2 position in the nation in overall growth thanks to the number of people moving here from abroad and the number of births.

The greater Houston region, which includes The Woodlands and Sugar Land, also saw the total number of new residents fall by about 21 percent to just over 125,000 in 2016, the lowest in at least the last four years.

[…]

State demographer Lloyd Potter said Houston’s population growth is also powered by its high birth rates, especially among its young, rapidly expanding Hispanic population.

“The net out domestic migration was pretty substantial,” Potter said. “That’s kind of impressive, to still have the second-highest numeric growth. You would have expected it to slip a little more than that.”

Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University sociology professor and founding director of its Kinder Institute for Urban Research, pointed to the fate of other cities that have seen similar dramatic job declines such as Detroit, where Wayne County last year lost about 7,700 residents, the most in the nation after Chicago’s Cook County. Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has in the past called for more visas for high-skilled immigrants for the Detroit area, citing the population losses and need for an economic jump-start.

“This is a powerful reminder of how much Houston benefits from immigration,” Klineberg said.

We sure do, in many ways. The flip side of that is that we have a lot to lose if immigration is curtailed the way Dear Leader Trump and his minions want to. Even with them being 0 for 2 on travel bans, we’re already seeing the effect of that. We’ll just have to see what the numbers look like next year.

You can’t talk about population growth without talking about redistricting. Texas is on track to get more Congressional seats in the 2020 reapportionment, probably two or three. It seems likely that the greater area, if not Harris County itself, will get a bigger piece of the Congressional pie. Of more interest is whether Harris County will remain at 24 members in the Legislature, or if it will go back to having 25 members. Too early to say, and things can certainly change, but it could happen. Keep that in mind as we go forward. This Chron story and the Trib, both of which have charts, have more.

Current trends in Texas immigration

More Asian, less Latino is the nickel summary.

Lloyd Potter

The number of Latin Americans moving to Texas from abroad and other states has dropped by almost a quarter as the amount of Asians coming here doubled, offsetting the decline and echoing national trends, according to a report released [recently] by the state demographer’s office.

Nearly 93,000 people with Latin-American origins settled in the Lone Star state in 2013, compared to more than 122,000 in 2005, the data shows. Their arrivals have decreased nearly every year. In contrast, more than 85,500 foreign-born Asians moved to Texas in 2013, the most ever, compared to just more than 41, 830 in 2005. The shift is historic, said state demographer Lloyd Potter.

“Our narrative in Texas on immigration is on migration from Mexico, both legal and illegal,” he said. “With Asian immigration and Latin American immigration, there is an income, educational and skill differential. That shift is certainly an interesting and significant one.”

Asians are more likely to come here on work visas and hold advanced degrees, for example, he said.

The findings are on pace with a national report released last month by the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington D.C., showing that Asians are expected to become the country’s largest immigrant group in the next 50 years, eclipsing Hispanics for the first time. They are projected to make up more than a third of the U.S. foreign-born population by 2065, though Latinos will remain the largest ethnic group.

In all, the state demographer’s report found Texas is more international than at any time since its statehood in 1845, with one out of six Texans born in a foreign country.

The full report is here – it’s from October, and I just hadn’t gotten around to publishing this post before now – and as the story notes this is in line with national trends. In fact, at this time there is net negative migration from Mexico – more people move there from here than move here from there. Not that this will do anything to dampen our “border security” fetish, because we’re just stupid that way. And for what it’s worth, Asian voters have trended heavily Democratic of late, though we’re a long way from that making any difference outside a handful of legislative districts. But if you want to know what Texas will look like in another 10 or 20 years, go read that report.

Another trip down Demography Lane

From the Sunday Chron op-ed pages:

Texas is headed for the ditch, but few people are aware of the state’s perilous path. The demographers have seen the future, though, because it’s foretold in their numbers. And they’ve been sounding the alarm.

There hasn’t been much of a public-policy response, so far.

Texas could be the pacesetter: It has a young and rapidly growing population. Educate that workforce and Texas becomes a vibrant, thriving state for decades. Unfortunately, that young population is overwhelmingly minority and under-educated, and there appears to be little political interest in addressing the needs of that demographic group.

Increasingly, Texas stands to become poorer and less competitive, according to demographers who study the numbers for a living. Neither state leaders nor the media is paying adequate attention. Few Texans are aware of the state’s rapidly changing population. Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest population group some time before 2020.

By the numbers, here’s what’s been taking place: The state lost 184,486 white children between 2000 and 2010 while gaining 931,012 Hispanic children over that decade, according to the U.S. Census. Stated another way, in 2000, Texas white kids outnumbered Hispanic children by 120,382; Flash forward to 2010 and Hispanic children outnumbered white kids by 995,116.

This gap will continue to widen. Demographer Steve Murdock notes the average white female is 42 years old compared to an average age of 28 for Latinas. And the fertility rate is 1.9 children for the white female compared to 2.7 for the Latina. Demographers say replacement of a population group requires a fertility rate of at least 2.1.

Whites are projected to make up fewer than 4 percent of the state’s population growth between now and 2040, compared to 78 percent for Texas Hispanics.

Here’s the most important figure: All of our K-12 enrollment growth over the past decade comes from low-income children – that is, children whose family income qualifies them for free and reduced-cost school lunches. Those low-income students now make up a little more than 60 percent of our public school enrollment.

Many are way behind when they arrive in the first grade. Too many drop out years later. A whopping 47 percent of low-income high school students from the Class of 2015 were off track to graduate, according to testimony in last year’s public school finance trial.

Why does this matter? Murdock, who served as director of the U.S Census Bureau in the administration of President George W. Bush, projects that three out of 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma by 2040. Also, in 25 years, the average Texas household income will be some $6,500 less than it was in the year 2000. The figure is not inflation-adjusted, so it will be worse than it sounds. Basically, today’s children, collectively, stand to be worse off than preceding generations.

How can we address the trend line? The first step is to increase access to high-quality pre-K, Murdock says.

[…]

The demographers are warning us about the not so-rosy future if we fail to act. Education is the answer. Education is the best ticket out of poverty. We simply need state leaders to understand a universal truth: It doesn’t cost to educate a child; it pays to educate a child.

This is a condensed version of a longer piece by former Chron and Express-News reporter Gary Scharrer, which first appeared on Texas To The World. Scharrer was more recently on the staff of now-former Sen. Tommy Williams. Steve Murdock is a familiar name in this blog – he’s been singing this tune for well over a decade now, not that the powers that be have been listening. Here’s an interview I did with him in 2011, just as the Legislature was getting set to cut $5.4 billion from public education and $200 million from pre-k, because they suck like that. As we know, these issues are salient in the election for Governor this fall. You tell me whose pre-k plan, not to mention whose overall vision for education, is a better fit for our future.

Children continue to be our future

The mother of all school finance lawsuits, which commenced on Monday, will take many weeks to conclude. I don’t expect to follow it every day since there’s just so much else going on, but I wanted to point out a couple of things from the Chron story of the trial’s opening day.

Dr. Steve Murdock

By 2050, Texas will be home for 12 million non-Hispanic whites and 31 million Hispanics, Murdock said. Hispanic children will make up nearly two-thirds of the state’s public school enrollment while the percentage of white children, now about 30 percent, will have dropped to 15.5 percent, said [Steve] Murdock, Texas’ first official state demographer.

[…]

About 8 percent of Texas’ non-Hispanic whites have less than a high school education compared with 40.4 percent among Hispanics, Murdock said.

Education remains the best single indicator for economic success, he emphasized. In 2010, one of every 10 Texas whites lived in poverty compared with more than one in 4 among Hispanics, Murdock said.

The state’s future depends on Hispanics since they will make up most of the population growth in the coming decades, he said.

“Their need is our need in the sense that how well minority population groups do in Texas is how well Texas will do,” Murdock said.

Murdock has been singing this song for well over a decade now, but especially in the last legislative session it was clear that no one who had any power to do something about it was paying attention. Here’s an interview I did with Dr. Murdock last year – if you ever get the chance to talk to him or to hear him speak, I highly recommend it – and you can browse my archives for more of his greatest hits. I feel certain that someday there will be broad consensus that he was right all along. i just hope it isn’t too late to do something about it by then.

White non-Hispanic children made up 75 percent of Humble ISD’s school enrollment 12 years ago. Today, white children are a minority at 46 percent and the percentage of low-income children has increased from 15.9 percent to 35 percent.

“Virtually everything (Murdock’s) data showed is the experience we have had in our community,” Humble ISD Superintendent Guy Sconzo said.

[…]

Humble ISD taxpayers approved a maximum school operations tax rate of $1.17 for the 2008-09 school year that generated an extra $17.9 million per year – but the district then lost $24.2 million when state lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from public education last year.

“In one fell swoop that (local tax) revenue went away,” Sconzo said.

As the Trib noted in its look back at a decade of Republican control of Texas, the GOP has largely attempted to control costs in the state budget by pushing them down to the local level. Sconzo’s words attest to that reality. I keep thinking that a day of reckoning will come when places like Humble to which people fled in order to have access to better schools for their kids can no longer provide the kind of education experience these people expected. It hasn’t happened yet on a wide scale, though there have been isolated victories and there are signs this year of it as some Republicans who voted for the vicious cuts to public education now try to run away from them, but I still believe it’s inevitable, and that the 2013 legislative session may hasten it for 2014. Put simply, the course we’re on is unsustainable. Something has to give.

It’s not “he said, she said” if one of them is factually correct

This Chron story from Monday about a mishap at the County Clerk’s office really annoys me for what it doesn’t say.

A manual being using to train election judges for next week’s elections contains inaccurate information, reflecting a new voter identification law that has not yet taken effect, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said Monday.

Stanart said his office caught the error after the first training class last Monday and since has provided correct information to election workers.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said two confused election judges contacted his office last week, concerned the manual was implementing Texas’ new voter identification law a year early.

The controversial law is praised by mostly Republican supporters, who say it will reduce voter fraud, and slammed by mostly Democratic critics, who say such fraud is a false menace and complain the law could disenfranchise the poor, young and elderly.

Good Lord. It’s not a matter of opinion that “such fraud is a false menace”, it’s a matter of verifiable fact that there have been essentially no examples nationwide of vote fraud by impersonation, which is what voter ID laws are supposed to combat, and this is a fact that has been regularly reported. Right here in Texas, Greg Abbott spent more than a year and a million dollars hunting for examples of fraud by impersonation, and the only arrests he made involved absentee ballots, which are completely unaffected by voter ID. His crusade was blatantly partisan, and many of the charges he brought wound up being dismissed. You wouldn’t know any of that from this Chron story, unfortunately.

For that matter, the effect of these laws, not just in Texas but in many other states, is also well documented, and it’s quite clear from statements made by their Republican advocates that reducing turnout among various Democratic constituencies is the prime feature of these laws. But again, you wouldn’t know that from this story.

Here in Texas, where the voter ID law has not yet been precleared by the Justice Department on the grounds that over 600,000 eligible voters do not have ID that will be acceptable under the law, the Secretary of State has so far been unable to provide data about these voters. They are working on it, however, and last week Sen. Ellis released a letter that he sent to SOS Ann McGeehan discussing the Secretary’s decision to use the State Demographer to provide additional data and the questions that still remain. I’ve posted that letter beneath the fold.

You can also see a opy of Sen. Ellis’ letter to County Clerk Stanart here. The point is that the voter ID law has not been precleared yet, and even if it had been it still doesn’t take effect till January. That means you can vote in this election the way you always have and the way you still would if Republicans hadn’t decided a few years ago that every election they lose must be due to swarms of illegal immigrants voting multiple times against them, by simply showing your voter registration card. The republic will survive for at least one more election under those conditions.

(more…)

Interview with Steve Murdock

Dr. Steve Murdock is a former State Demographer of Texas and director of the US Census, now the founding Director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. He’s the man to go to if you want to know about demography in Texas, and since that’s both something that interests me and is also very much in the news between the Census and the legislative session, I figured now was an excellent time to have a conversation with him about these things. Here’s what we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

It’s a long conversation, but I hope you’ll find it as interesting and informative as I did. Whatever the Lege chooses to do this session, they and we can’t say we didn’t know any better.

The missing people of San Marcos

Houston isn’t the only city that got unexpectedly bad news from the Census.

Just how many people live in San Marcos? Lately, that depends on whom you ask.

For the past three years, city officials have estimated the population to be more than 50,000 people. Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau seemed to agree, offering a guess of 53,205 in 2009.

But official results from the 2010 census tell a different story. They put the city’s population at 44,894 , far below previous estimates and raising the possibility that San Marcos residents were undercounted.

[…]

The Census Bureau reports that San Marcos had a relatively low rate of mail-in participation in the census compared with the rest of Hays County, other nearby cities and the national average of 74 percent.

The data show that 67 percent of San Marcos households filled out and mailed in their census forms, up from 64 percent in 2000. New Braunfels had a 78 percent mail-in rate in 2010. Wimberley had 79 percent.

Different areas of San Marcos, including near downtown and Texas State University, ran as low as 61 percent, the data show.

Census volunteers were directed to follow up when households failed to send in forms. However, Lloyd Potter , the state’s official demographer and director of the Texas State Data Center said, “I think not getting a good return rate certainly increases the possibility of an undercount.”

On Jan. 1, the city released a population estimate of 53,023 people. The Texas State Data Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio estimated San Marcos had 55,678 residents in July 2009 and 56,563 in January 2010. Even the Census Bureau’s yearly American Community Survey offered an estimate of 53,205 in 2009.

Potter said he did not know whether anyone would be held accountable in the event of an undercount.

As it happens, Houston’s participation rate was also 67%, which was also up from 64% in 2000. Houston’s population total is off by at least 100,000 if you project from earlier estimates, but on a percentage basis San Marcos’ count is much farther off – about 18%, compared to about six percent for Houston. I have no idea what happened, but someone needs to figure it out, because either those estimates were badly flawed or the official count missed by a lot; either case is bad. In any event, consider this an extra dollop of evidence for those who favor proceeding with adding two extra Council seats based on Houston reaching 2.1 million in population.

Murdock on the cuts to public education

Not too surprisingly, former state demographer Steve Murdock thinks that the looming cuts to public education are a long-term disaster for the state. He singled out pre-K and TEXAS grants as the top two items of concern.

“I am very concerned,” said Murdock, a sociology professor at Rice University and the former state demographer who also served as U.S. Census Bureau director in the George W. Bush administration. “It’s not like we have a lot of slack in the system where we can slip a little bit and still be OK.”

Minority children now make up at least 66 percent of the state’s 4.8 million public school enrollment, most from low-income families. In the last 10 years, the number of children from low-income families has increased by 893,055, surpassing overall enrollment growth during the same period.

Education is the single best predictor of income, Murdock says, and the combination of explosive Hispanic population growth and low academic achievement produces the sour forecast.

“We are lagging now and to fail to educate this population is a formula for long-term disaster for Texas,” Murdock said. “The thing that is most important for us to recognize is that what we do today with these young people will determine the future for all of us.”

Murdock has been sounding this alarm for a long time now, so while hearing him say all this is always welcome and necessary, it’s not a surprise. What is a bit of a surprise is this:

House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said he cannot defend the proposed cuts in Pre-K and TEXAS grant funding.

“We have some serious, serious decisions to make,” Eissler said. “If you predict the future based on today, it’s not bright.”

Eissler’s early words on education cuts, made before the official announcement of how deep the hole is, were less than reassuring. This is the first time I’ve noticed him push back in some way on the Pitts/Ogden budgets, and it’s encouraging to see. He’s not made a commitment to any particular course of action, so it’s still possible he could go along with what is now being proposed, but at least he’s saying the right things.

Census forms start arriving next week

Fill out those forms and send them back, because redistricting and all that it entails will follow close behind.

Experts’ early looks at Census estimates point to a potential new congressional district in northwest Harris County. That could be alluring to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who represents the area in the Legislature.

A new Hispanic-majority congressional district is likely to find a home along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.

Another Hispanic-majority district probably will land in Dallas County. But because of population shifts to the suburbs, Dallas likely will lose a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

The location of a fourth congressional district for Texas will be the subject of political debate a year from now.

I had always been under the impression that the fourth seat would be down along the Rio Grande. If you take a look at Steve Murdock’s map of where the population growth has been in Texas, it’s pretty obvious, as the four locations correspond to the three places mentioned in the Chron story, plus the southernmost border counties. That would very likely be a Democratic seat, which won’t go over too well with the Republicans, who will as the story notes try to make up for it by taking aim once again at Rep. Chet Edwards. Obviously, there are far too many factors involved here to give any kind of accurate projection of what will happen, but some things you can see coming from miles away.

Of course, for South Texas to have any hope of getting a new Congressional seat, there has to be a thorough count. The State of Texas hasn’t exactly been out in front of the issue.

With Census Day just a few weeks away, Texas finally has a point person to coordinate the state’s push for complete participation by its residents in the project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador.

[…]

For months, Hispanic civil rights groups, border city and county officials and state legislators have been urging Perry to get involved in Census 2010 by forming a statewide Complete Census Count Committee. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have argued that Perry could have been better utilizing the enormous resources state agencies have to promote full participation in the Census. Up until now Perry has resisted such calls.

MALDEF staff attorney Luis Figueroa pointed out that more than 35 states have so far set up Complete Census Count Committees. “Obviously, with all the obstacles that we have, such as the hard to count communities and the colonias, Texas is really a state that needs to be proactive with the census,” Figueroa said.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was the first elected official in Texas to call on Perry to set up a statewide Complete Census Count Committee.

“The stakes are high,” Villarreal said, in a letter to Perry last October. “Promoting participation in the census will improve our state’s chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves. If we succeed, we will receive more of our own tax dollars back from the federal government, easing our ability to meet our needs in transportation, education, health and human services and other ideas.”

Villarreal’s letter prompted calls in the Guardian in November for Perry to set up a statewide Complete Count Committee. The calls came from Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Keith Patridge.

Here’s a copy of the letter Villarreal sent to Perry back in October, and here’s a story from February in which Villarreal called on Perry again to take this step. I know Perry’s been busy lately fighting off the depredations of the federal government single-handedly, but if he had the time to do this now, he had the time to do it six months ago. It just wasn’t a priority for him. A release from Villarreal about Perry’s appointment of Andrade is beneath the fold, and Texas Politics has more.

(more…)

Stand up and be counted

Please participate in the Census. Nothing good happens when you don’t.

When the new, condensed census form arrives in the mail during the second week in March, each recipient’s decision about whether to toss it in the trash or fill it out and mail it back will carry important implications.

“It is very important to the city of Houston that we have a complete and accurate count for the 2010 Census,” Parker said in a message on the city’s Web site in January. “We lose an estimated $1,700 per person per year for everyone not counted.”

Experts say the figure Parker used is open to question, in part because allocation formulas for various federal programs use census data in different ways. But no one disputes that vast sums are at stake.

Karl Eschbach, the state demographer, said big cities like Houston with large populations of immigrants and poor people are particularly vulnerable to undercounts. A recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated Houston was undercounted by 25,000 people, or 1.3 percent, in the 2000 Census.

And although leaders of various groups promoting participation discourage the notion that they are competing with one another, Eschbach noted the supply of federal dollars is a fixed sum.

“Undercount is a relative issue,” he said. “My undercount is good for you: Every dollar not assigned here goes somewhere else.”

I figure everyone who reads this blog is already familiar with the issue and doesn’t really need the nudge. But I figure it’s important to repeat the message as often and in as many places as possible. And as the Trib notes, it’s not just a Houston issue.

A September 2001 study commissioned by the U.S. Census Monitoring Board and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that more than 373,000 Texans were not counted in 2000, resulting in a net loss of more than $1 billion in federal monies that would have gone to support schools, hospitals, social services, and transportation projects over the last decade. That poor showing has prompted the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund to launch its own Complete Count Committee for this year’s census. The task is something the group and its supporters insist should be undertaken by state leaders. “We are asking the governor to work with the U.S. Census Bureau and to issue a directive to all state agencies to promote the census because we feel that it’s crucial,” MALDEF attorney Luis Figueroa said.

Eight Texas counties, including most of the largest, are included on the Census Bureau’s list of the top 50 hard-to-count counties in the U.S. (Areas considered “hard-to-count” include those where a large majority receives public assistance; where renters are common; households with large numbers of children; areas with high non-English proficiency, and dwellings where multiple families live.) Harris County sits at number 5, with 19.1 percent of its approximately 3.4 million residents living in these areas. It is followed by Dallas County in the number 10 spot, with 16.4 percent of its 2.22 million, and Hidalgo County at number 11, with 57 percent of its 540,000 residents living in these areas. Bexar County is in number 32 on the list, with 10.6 percent of its 1.4 million in hard-to-count areas, and Tarrant County is number 36, with 9.3 percent of its 1.45 million residents affected. Travis County sits at 38 (15.3 percent of its 812,000), El Paso County at 42 (16.7 percent of its 680,000) and Cameron County at 45 (30 percent of its 335,000).

Get counted or get overlooked, those are your choices.

Latino population growth in the suburbs

We won’t know all of the specifics till after the Census is completed, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to hear that the suburbs are changing in the same ways that the rest of the state and the country are.

In March, millions of census forms will be delivered to residences in the U.S. and Puerto Rico to count the U.S. population. The portrait of America that emerges will certainly show more diversity since 2000. But that diversity won’t be limited to big cities or populous counties.

The number of Hispanics in Montgomery County, where Conroe is the county seat, grew by 112 percent from 2000 through 2008, while Latino growth in Fort Bend County was 70 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates. Harris County’s Hispanic population, meanwhile, increased by 40 percent, and Houston’s went up by 31 percent.

Karl Eschbach, the state demographer, said he expects a falling Mexican fertility rate and other factors to lead to a decline in Latino migration to Texas in percentage terms. Locally, Eschbach said, “the growth of a range of housing options in the suburbs, both inside and outside Harris County, is redistributing (Latino) growth away from Houston.”

Putting these into absolute figures:

Montgomery County, Year 2000 versus Year 2008 Year Population Latinos Latino% ================================== 2000 293,768 37,500 12.8% 2008 429,953 78,681 18.3% Diff 132,185 41,181 31.2% Fort Bend County, Year 2000 versus Year 2008: Year Population Latinos Latino% ================================== 2000 354,452 74,871 21.1% 2008 532,141 127,182 23.9% Diff 177,689 52,311 29.4% Harris County, Year 2000 versus Year 2008: Year Population Latinos Latino% ==================================== 2000 3,400,578 1,119,751 32.9% 2008 3,984,349 1,565,849 39.3% Diff 583,771 446,098 76.4%

The Year 2008 Latino population is derived in each case from the “Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2008” figure, since an actual number is not given. By my calculation, the growth rate for Montgomery is 109%, not 112, not that it matters that much. While Montgomery’s rate of growth looks – and is – impressive, it’s easier to have such a high rate of growth when the starting number is small. There’s still a lot of white people moving into Montgomery County, in other words. Fort Bend saw high rates of growth in its black and Asian populations as well – 58% for blacks (from 70,356 to 111,217) and 97% for Asians (39,706 to 78,224). In Harris, 76% of all new population growth is attributable to Latinos. To me, that’s even more amazing than what’s happening in Montgomery. Pretty good glimpse at why voting patterns have been evolving in Harris and Fort Bend, too.

Anyway, as usual I find the opportunity to crunch a few numbers to be irresistible. For stuff like this, it’s especially fascinating.

Our Hispanic future

It’s happening now.

In a new report on population trends in public schools, the Texas Education Agency reports that Texas now enrolls 130,000 fewer white children than 10 years ago.

For the first time, Hispanic children dominate first-grade classes, adding about 4,000 children last year to become the outright majority with 50.2 percent of students.

But Hispanic children would have become dominant without even one new student, because white first-grade enrollment dropped by about 2,000.

White children are now fewer than one-third of the first-graders in Texas.

If this is a surprise to us, it’s not one to Karl Eschbach of the University of Texas-San Antonio, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry as the official state demographer.

“What people don’t realize is the sheer inevitability of this change,” Eschbach said Friday.

It isn’t about immigration, he said. It’s about native-born Texan and American children growing up.

Some white conservatives — not all of them but certainly all the ones with radio shows — fear the “Latinization” of Texas. No reason to fear.

“It’s already happened,” Eschbach said.

In Harris County, the tipping point was two years ago, when Hispanics became the plurality. The state of Texas is still predominantly white, but not majority white, not since 2003.

“If the state is going to be healthy, we have to invest in children,” Eschbach said, repeating part of the presentation he gives across the state. “We have to invest in education. We have to invest in preparing children for a global economy.”

In other words, Texas’ future depends on how well we prepare today’s minority children.

Eschbach was blunt.

“The children who don’t ‘look like us’ will have the greatest say in the state’s future success,” he said.

He sounds a lot like his predecessor, Steve Murdock. Maybe one of these years we’ll actually start listening to these guys.