Comment of the Day: The 2 Types of Willing Long-Term Houstonians

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE 2 TYPES OF WILLING LONG-TERM HOUSTONIANS This data doesn’t surprise me at all — not because Houston has high quality of life (as a lifelong resident, we don’t), but rather because of the demographics who live here. I’d bet that a sizable majority of Houston residents fall into 1 of 2 categories: Older, settled people who have already made their choice and are unwilling to change, OR transplants from vastly more difficult situations in places like Central America, Vietnam, or the economically depressed parts of the Midwest. Houston looks pretty good when you compare it to third world type (or barely better than) living conditions — not so good when you compare it to more desirable U.S. cities. I’d be willing to bet that these numbers would change substantially if you narrowed the criteria to the “young, educated professionals” which every city wants to add to their workforce and tax base. These people demonstrably prefer to live in places like Austin, Denver, Portland, or Seattle, or (if they can afford it) Boston, NYC, San Francisco, or D.C.” [Christian, commenting on Houstonians Do Actually Want To Live Here; Freedmen’s Town Brick Fix Goes WrongIllustration: Lulu

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  • Maybe a third category are people who moved here (or reluctantly stayed here after finishing college like me) because of a job or cheap cost of living and who, after a little while of living here and realizing there are lots of things to like about living here (great diverse food and lots of fun things to do if you know where to look), are not as eager to gamble on trying to find work somewhere with mountains or whatever.

  • At nearly 2.5 million strong, Millennials are the region’s largest generational group making up about 1/3 of the total population. Unlike many of those cities that you mentioned, Houston combines a dynamic economy (with reasonably good job growth even in a down year) with housing affordability virtually unmatched by any major MSA in the US. So I’d suspect it makes the Houston area a pretty good fit for them to. Inside the loop you can find housing priced comparable to major west or east coast cities, but where else in the country can you find a couple of decent bedrooms and a bath for under $250K and still find a job?

  • I think you forget the category of people who are born and raised in the city and want to be near friends and family. As a young professional, I’d certainly rather live in Seattle or Denver if the decision was made in a vacuum without regard to work opportunities, friends, or family. But that’s not how most people make their decisions on where to live.

  • Live in Houston but play everywhere else.

  • I’m a little confused by this. At some point the “older, settled” educated professionals were “young, educated professionals”. Why did they decide to live in Houston oh so many decades ago? Houston wasn’t Austin back then, I promise you.

  • Lots of people like Houston, but like me I imagine they prefer to stay in Houston because of what it allows us to afford, not because of what it is. and isn’t. That’s obviously an important distinction that’s not going to be clarified in a survey. Who takes these things anyways?
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    When’s the last time you heard someone write a glowing review of Houston’s infrastructure, job/economic mobility, public services or low wage growth? Increasing crime and poverty rates, etc?

  • So only people from Central America or Vietnam find Houston appealing?? This is ridiculous. How come all these yankees from Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and Boston come here and never leave?? I swear i know more people that live here from out of state than grew up here and I’ve lived here my whole life. Houston is a great place to live and they’ve figured that out.

  • Houston and Dallas not only have strong net international migration according to the Census, but also the strongest net domestic migration. By contrast, many of the cities that one might think of as magnets for affluent Millenials actually are very deep in net negative domestic migration and are buoyed only by international migrants. Basically…I think that this analysis is myopic and wrong.
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    I notice that Silicon Valley isn’t on this list, and it doesn’t surprise me. Given the choice between Silicon Valley and San Francisco, which did make the list, it may seem obvious that Millennials would prefer the latter. So what’s the deal? Why do people live in Silicon Valley? Well…it does have a very large Vietnamese population, and like everywhere else that there are people, it has older more established people. But that’s ignoring the most obvious explanation there is. It is a region defined by a very narrow highly-technical set of industries that feed off of one another. It is an engineering hub (and engineers as a group are hardly renowned for being terribly sensitive to civic matters or high culture). There are jobs, and not just any jobs, but the kinds of jobs that are excellent springboards in a career, whether entry-level or executive. There is money (or the promise of money). So there. It thrives. It thrives irrespective of geography or its place in the cultural pantheon of American cities.
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    Same as Houston.

  • I agree with spiteful: I was born and grew up here (outside the beltway), and the only reason I didn’t leave during all those years of apartment living was because it’s easier to get a job here and generally is cheaper to live. A lot of people I know and work with are not from here or surrounding areas. If I got a job offer before I bought a house, I would have been out of here.

  • The COD would be very accurate if it was 2000. Back then, Houston was patting itself on the back for shedding the title of murder capitol of the US in the 1980s and worst air quality in the country in the 1990s. They rolled up the sidewalks in downtown after 6:30 pm. The big nightlife spot in Houston was the Richmond Strip (which sucked). Back then, if you were fresh off the boat, you could find a good living much easier in Houston than in any of the more “desirable’ metros. And if you had been in Houston through all the bad times, you probably bought your house for pennies and were happy to see things getting better.
    Today, it is a very different city. Downtown is alive at night. There’s Discovery green, Market Square, Buffalo Bayou, Levy Park and other great improvements in public amenities. There are great restaurants, bars and breweries all over the city. And as much as things have improved, it seems like only the beginning. That may be the big winner for young professionals. They want a city that will grow with them rather than a city that may be overvalued and overrun with tourists.

  • “These people demonstrably prefer to live in places like Austin, Denver, Portland, or Seattle, or (if they can afford it) Boston, NYC, San Francisco, or D.C”

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    Yeah, until they look at potential salaries and COL. That nonsense is for people in their early 20s. Even at the mid to late 20s level people realize they need to find somewhere stable. These people are moving to Houston in droves. And many are finding themselves a bit surprised at what they see here.

  • This is a bad comment of the day :( the writer of the comment obviously hates Houston and should leave.

  • With the possible exception of Austin (since I know nothing about Austin), every city mentioned outside of the “too expensive” list is more than capable of creating and cultivating its own group of people who would be elsewhere considered part of some elite cadre of “young, educated professionals.” Why Houston can’t manage the same is unclear. Does it fancy itself as being in the same league as the “expensive” cities (NYC, LA, DC) such that it can easily import educated people (the greater fools) into the fiefdom? Or is it totally fine with exporting its “big fish, small bayou” above-average elites to other cities to reap what other cities took centuries to sow? So many questions, so few answers.

  • Can’t disagree more with the COD commenter who thinks Houston doesn’t have a high quality of life. I think Houston has an outstanding quality of life. Yes, I wish we had more topography and bodies of water in town, but no place is perfect. Houston has countless great neighborhoods; friendly and open residents; more food/drink/entertainment/cultural options than anyone could ever fully explore. Other than a few months of extreme heat, the weather is very mild. I’m originally from NYC. I’ve travelled around the world. I have friends coast-to-coast. I think Houston is a great place to live. If you’re not having a great life in Houston, you might want to take a hard look in the mirror instead of blaming the city.

  • Houston has a relatively low public quality of life (low walkability, mass transit, few public commons, little historical preservation, lack of natural beauty), but the private quality of life tends to be quite good (a lot of house for your money, plenty of automobile access, availability of a vast array of consumer goods, an airport that goes everywhere for cheap). Those who have more communitarian values tend to disparage Houston for the former, but those who have more individualistic values tend to prize Houston for the latter. We’re using the same language but starting from completely different places in this discussion..

  • Global comparative quality of life rankings are published all the time, and Houston is consistently nowhere to be found in them. I don’t think anyone can disagree with that fact.

  • Yes, Houston has jobs, opportunity and a low cost of living. But, beyond these factors, identity politics and culture play a significant role. Typically, when the desirability of a city is considered, it’s from an liberal, educated, upper-middle class white perspective. All of the desirable cities noted in this conversation don’t just have these kinds of people — they are known for having these kinds of people. People want to be around their own kind and Houston is not known for this. Beyond college towns (Austin, etc) the only Southern cities who seem to attract these people are historic places like New Orleans and Charleston.

  • I think people ( especially younger people) move to Houston primarily for jobs. Jobs that pay them good money in a city with a relatively low cost of living. That even goes for non-energy related jobs. Young people that simply want to live somewhere that has a good “vibe” or quality of life move to places like Austin or Seattle and don’t really care about how much they make or a career track as long as they get to partake in that lifestyle. I rarely see someone with 2 university degrees waiting tables in Houston, but Austin is chock full of those types. My biggest beef with Houston is the heat and humidity of summer, but I have enough money left over from the low living expenses to take a vacation or two up north in the summer and have a respite from the heat.

  • I only live here, so I can afford to visit everywhere else

  • Houston has starker segregation by income and less generational upward mobility than those places mentioned. Houston is paradise for those who only want to live among their own. Even the employment scene is like that now post-2008.

  • Houston’s amazing, as long as you didn’t grow up in you know, actual Houston / not some suburb, and had to attend an average HISD school. There are a lot of nice places, just as long as they don’t fall into or are next to the 39% of the city that qualify as high-poverty census tracts.

  • It really just boils down to the fact that Houstonians don’t get out much. Most Houstonians tend to be: 1) native, 2) transplants from other parts of Texas, or 3) people who moved from places like suburban Ohio, where a suburban tract in Columbus is really no different than suburban Houston, except you don’t get any snow. For these groups, Houston seems like a great place because they either grew up with it or it’s marginally better than your typical rural/suburban location. The rest are transplants who have seen the world, but deal with Houston and would rather be in a global metro that has a better quality of life. So, asking residents what they think doesn’t mean much as a way to compare to many other metro areas that have all kinds of comparative advantages.

  • @ __: Do you have data to support your claim that Houston has a problem with generational mobility? I did a quick search on “intergenerational upward mobility by city” and came up with this paper
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    https://www.rajchetty.com/chettyfiles/mobility_geo.pdf
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    Houston ranks #15 out of the 50 largest “commuting zones” in the United States. Top cities were Salt Lake City (1), Pittsburgh (2), and San Jose (3). Boston (4), New York City (10), and San Francisco (5) were higher than Houston, but cities lower than Houston that were mentioned as more desirable on this post included Denver (19), Portland, OR (23), Austin (26). None of the other big Texas cities were as high on the list as is Houston.
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    Their approach toward differences in migration over a very lengthy study period was very limited and did not address the complexity of the issue. To their credit, attempts were made to adjust for various other factors; however, there were also quite a few notes and disclaimers made describing technical limitations and work-arounds that seem…hrmmm, maybe a bit arbitrary, limited, and unscientific.
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    If you have a better analysis, I welcome it.
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    Also, regarding Houston’s absence from global quality of life surveys…that’d probably mean that it wasn’t analyzed, perhaps because of size or some other factor. I’ve looked at a number of these over the years, and methodologies aren’t often very rigorous. But if you mis-phrased something and would like to correct yourself or would like to provide us some data, I welcome that too.

  • It’s true, the mean ‘ol MSM is biased against Houston, the city with the finest QOL in the world! I hereby take back anything I may have said that could have red-pilled or otherwise burst the delusion-bubble of any and all transplants from wherever…Actually, I take *that* back, I think immigrants deserve to know the truth about this place. Given that people making less than $12.5K/yr (presumably including a fair share of recent immigrants from Vietnam or Central America) are the ones who want to leave Houston the most, it almost sounds like they did their due diligence, and took a chance on a new life, only to be stymied when the coyote’s truck ran out of gas or something in Houston while on the way to Nashville or Minneapolis or someplace like that I guess. Again, more questions than answers here.

  • Ok yes their are good economic opportunities, food and diversity. But why does Houston have to be so damn ugly. We have so many opportunities to be drastically better but the mentality just hasn’t made any significant shift around here. In terms of aesthetics of the overall city we are not showing any significant improvements. Certainly none that would have us in the same category as the cities mentioned in this post.

  • Not sure what to make of any of this. First off, a bitter long-time local writing a post disparaging their city is ridiculous. Nice views and topography mean nothing when you are trying to earn a living and raise a family and promoting up through a great Fortune 500. I am not sure where the author or many commenters have also lived but I was stationed in many areas in my life and spent anywhere from 3-5 years in each one. Not sure if that is long enough to form a lasting opinion but it must mean something. I have seen comments that suburban Houston is on level with a third world country or suburban Ohio so these people these people think it is great. None of this makes any sense. I have lived in Boston, Houston, San Marcos, Austin, Denton, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Morgantsown and Washington D.C.. Many are more beautiful and (arguably?) have nice weather but that is about all they have over Houston. Mass transit? I have been stuck on the subways in Boston and DC for hours waiting for accidents to be cleared on my way to and home from work. Was also caught in a subway fire in DC where a woman died. Not sure how any of this is different than sitting in traffic in Texas. Hurricanes and flash floods are terrible but blizzards and piles of snow are no picnic…not sure why anyone would spend more money to live in one of the cities mentioned in the last paragraph that have the same terrible problems we have here just in different shapes and forms. Houston segregated? How much time have you spent in Massachusetts?

    Why did I settle in Houston…at least for now, until I get another intriguing assignment? Love. I met my wife here and we were able to be close to her family in Dallas and it is an easy flight for me to head back home to Boston.

  • Yeaaaah….well…..hate to quibble with your fundamental premise, but not everyone is “promoting up through a great Fortune 500.” In fact, almost no one here is. Anything else you’d like to add?