The World of Our Grandchildren Part Two


 Steven H. Murdock

It's going to be awfully difficult act to follow, and I'm not going to be near as insightful I think as you have been.


I would say as a starting point that we should know that all the things that any of us up here say about the future that our grandchildren will live in you can be certain will be wrong in one part or another, at least to some extent or another.


I'm always reminded of my younger years when as a young demographer I was doing a lot of work on economic demographic modeling, and I was doing a presentation at a professional meeting and a very distinguished colleague of mine who I had a great deal of respect for sat in about the second row, and all the way through my presentation he shook his head like this. And it was one of those things that I found myself centering all my attention on him by the end of the presentation.


At the end of the presentation, I went running over to him and I said, What did I say wrong? What was wrong with my presentation? And he said, There's nothing wrong with your presentation. He said, Your presentation was very sound. It was very well thought out. It was very conceptually and empirically presented in terms of the clarity. He said, The problem is that projections are a young man's game. When you get older like I am, you know better.


Well, I'm older but no wiser perhaps, because I continue to do projections, but I do think we need to always put those kind of warning signs up when we talk about the future.


Well, what are some of the things that we can guess about Texas' future? One that I think we can be pretty certain of that I mentioned yesterday is that we will be in a more populous Texas. In fact, as you begin to look at Texas and some of the parts of Texas that we talked about yesterday that are linked, I think that we will see urban complexes in Texas that are very much like what we see on the east coast and the west coast, and I say that way because to many Texans at least when I first came to Texas to indicate that we would be urban like either coast was something that was completely unacceptable.


But I think that's a reality. We're going to have large urban complexes and our urban areas will increasingly become like the urban areas of the rest of the country. One of the things that has been different about Texas' urban areas is that in a sense we have had a lag in terms of patterns that were occurring in New York or Philadelphia or Chicago in terms of the manner, for example, of central city growth and the nature of that growth.


But our cities are beginning to follow those same patterns, and so if we look not only to those eastern and western urban complexes for an idea of what life might be like in parts of Texas, we can also get an idea of the problems and issues that are occurring in Texas.


For example, both of our two largest counties—that is, Dallas County and Harris County—now have extensive out migration of certain population groups from those areas to the suburbs and to other areas and are increasingly populated by immigrants so that the kind of patterns that we've associated with other parts of the country's large urban areas are clearly becoming evident for Texas as well.


We will see a much larger Texas overall. As you know, yesterday we suggested you'd see 34 million people perhaps by 2030. By 2050 it will be larger than that, I believe. It will be an area that despite that—despite the fact that we will be larger, I think one of the things that it is important to note for the US and then for Texas as a subpart of the US is that we're going to be this decreasingly important part of the world's population. The US at 4.5 percent or so of the world's population will be 2.5 perhaps of the world's population and Texas a subpart thereof.


So there will be a lot bigger world out there in which we will be interacting with, that we will be attempting to compete with as well. A gentleman yesterday noted that perhaps we'd all be on internet and be able to do all of our work from internet sites at remote locations, and someone else pointed out I think very correctly that yes, that is an advantage except the whole world will now become your competitors, as well as you compete for internet kinds of items.


We will certainly be a more diverse Texas. I mentioned yesterday that we will in the first part I think of this decade become less than half Anglo. We will be a population that we project by 2030 will be about 36 percent Anglo, about 10 percent African-American, about 46 percent Hispanic, and about 8 percent will be members of other racial and ethnic groups, primarily Asian I believe in the case of Texas.


We will be an area where there will be more intermarriage, where there will be more linking of groups in one form or another. We will be a Texas where I would say, by 2050, Governor Hernandez will look at Lt. Governor Gonzales and perhaps the speaker of the house by the name of Wang, and we will have a very different Texas in terms of what we have seen historically in a variety of ways.


As I mentioned yesterday, I think whether or not that is a difficult situation or an advantageous situation for Texas will depend a great deal on how we handle that diversity.


We'll obviously be an older Texas, at least in terms of some population components. I mentioned by 2030 we'd have about one in six Texans that would be 65 years of age or older, and we are going to have to handle in Texas as well as in the country the difficult situation of what we do in terms of benefits and so forth that are provided to the elderly.


Often, when we look at this in the US, we think of this as a national issue. Everyone knows about social security and the debate about social security, but it is not all in the national picture. Let me give you just one example.


Two sessions ago we were asked by the Texas Legislature to take these demographics and look at the implications of a property tax factor that we have in Texas sometimes called the 65 plus freeze which when you turn 65 in Texas the value of your property locks in and it never appreciates again. Now, your taxes may go up because the jurisdiction may raise the rate for your taxes, but the value of your property basically locks in.


Well, if you look at that as we did and look at the aging of the population and if you take average levels of appreciation in housing values for the last 20 years, what we found is that by 2030 local school districts in Texas, because of this provision, could be foregoing, because you forego because you only—if your property appreciates is there money lost that would otherwise be gained. The average school district in Texas would forego an amount equal to one of every $5 that they were collecting as a result of the 65 plus freeze.


We also have many agencies in Texas which we are telling to be self-supporting. Take one that's recreational related. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is told to become increasingly self-supporting relative to parks, relative to its programs, and what happens in Texas when you reach 65 relative to hunting or fishing? It's free, absolutely free.


Well, these are little kinds of factors, but the point of it is that we're going to have to start to consider whether we want to change some of those factors as we become an older population, and I am not at all suggesting we should do away with the 65 plus freeze. Every year I get older, the more important and the more logical that becomes to me. But certainly we're going to have to make some tough decisions, and it's not just at the national level. It's going to be at the state level and it's going to be at the local level.


But it is I admit hard for me even in a very futuristic view to imagine a politician running for statewide or local office on a platform of taking benefits away from the elderly. I'm not sure of the electability of that.


I think another factor—and John yesterday did talk somewhat about this and we did this morning a little bit—is that we are going to be a much more diverse range of households than we have had in the past. We tend to think that—when we stereotypically think about families and households, we tend to think of that ideal Texas/American household. You probably all know what that is. I know what it is from growing up in the '50s from sitcoms. It consists of a mother and father, two children, one male, one female, the male preferably two years older than the female, and one collie dog.


Well, the reality of it is that in Texas in 1990 only 28 percent of our households were married couple with children households. Basically three of every four households in Texas were some other form of household, so as you look at services and we look at planning things, we need to take into account these sorts of factors.


Over 30 percent of births in Texas are to unmarried women. Now, what's different about that than the past is those are not teenaged women. These are not necessarily young adults. Some of them are—I mean they’re young adults but they're not necessarily women who did not make a choice to bear children on their own, and as very well pointed out earlier, this is a factor that is going to be increasingly important.


We've already come to the situation where a decreasing proportion of kids live with two parents. In 1960 about 88 percent of the households—or of children in America lived with two parents. In 1998 that was down to about 68 percent, 20 percent in that period of time, and all patterns suggest that the diversity of households will change. Singlehoodness will increase as well.


We're at one of the highest rates of singleness; that is, people who never marry any time in their lifetime, that we have ever had, and so the diversity of household forms, the diversity of household types that was mentioned earlier will impact Texas as well.


I say that because sometimes people think, well, we must have substantially different patterns in Texas. We do to some extent, but those patterns frankly are primarily a result of our other diversity, the fact, for example, that Hispanic households tend to be more likely to be married couple with children households than Anglo households are, so that our overall statistics look a little different than the country primarily because of our diversity, but the diversity of household types that we've seen and talked about is something that we are going to deal with as well.


We are going to have to face a number of environmental issues in Texas, and I don't claim to be an expert on the environment so I'm not going to espouse too much about things I know very little about, but clearly issues such as water—we are for the first time trying to plan the future of water use in Texas as a result of Senate Bill 1 a few years ago, and groups are meeting all over the state. But the fun part of that hasn't started yet, and that is the starting to make decisions about who gets water and who does not get water, and that's going to affect a great deal of development decisions in Texas and the allocation indirectly of growth in Texas.


Where that will occur and what the implications will be I'm not going to even guess at, but I think that water will be among those issues that will be very critical to understanding particularly what happens in particular parts of Texas.          


We do have air quality, water quality issues that we are going to have to deal with as we get those urban complexes that I talked about a few minutes ago, so environmental issues, although many of you spent very little time the last couple of days talking about them, are going to be big issues I think for Texas.           


The last thing I will simply say is this. What Texas will be like for our grandchildren is not carved in stone. Demography is not destiny, at least not total destiny, and that's a hard thing for a demographer to have to say, but it's a reality, and we can change the futures, particularly from the ones that some of us were talking about yesterday through our private and public actions.           


Sometimes I'm asked about the Texas Challenged work that we have done and said what would we like to be the final effect of that, and my answer's always the same: I would like for every projection that we have made in the Texas Challenged book and work to come out to be untrue. I would like to in 2030 and in 2050 I would like my grandchildren to say, Boy, our grandfather was really a fool, wasn't he? He thought we were going to have all these problems and here we are in a very integrated, efficient, competitive Texas. Why did he ever think what he thought about our future at the turn of the century?           


To me that would be what I'd really like to have happen, and I believe it is a future we can have, but it is a future that we will have to make. It will not happen without both our private and public actions.