The Economist: Texas then and now
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Dr. M. Ray PerrymanOctober 20, 2011 | 1,371 views | 1 comment
It was recently my honor and privilege to give a speech at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Texas Economic Development Council. This non-profit association works to increase opportunities for all Texans by supporting economic development and has accomplished much in its 50-year history. You can read all about their impressive accomplishments and ongoing initiatives at www.texasedc.org. The challenge I faced in preparing for the speech was to develop a list of the 10 most important events in Texas’ economic development over the past 50 years. Needless to say, there are hundreds of things that could have been on such a list and it was exceedingly difficult to get it down to 10. (More on my top 10 at a later date.)
Looking back 50 years was an interesting endeavor. It’s no surprise that Texas has changed, but the degree to which the state economy has evolved is striking. It is interesting to look at the 1960 census information for Texas (which even on the massive census.gov website is a scan of a printed copy of a report from that era, complete with notations and whole punch marks). Even the types of data tracked and the wording used seems strange. The story the numbers tell is one of an amazing transformation in Texas, with sweeping changes in the population (and the business complex, but again, I’ll have to save that for another time). Here are a few of the things we found particularly noteworthy.
In 1960, the Texas population stood at less than 9.6 million, with about 25% living in rural areas (46% if you count communities of less than 10,000 as rural). Now, there are more than 25.1 million Texans and only 12% live in rural areas. So not only has the population risen by more than 260%, it has also become increasingly urban. Only 3% of 1960 Texans were foreign born, while a full 73% were born right here in the Lone Star State. Now, about 16% of the population was born in another country. While the census didn’t track race/ethnicity in much detail in 1960, 12% of current Texans are black and 38% are Hispanic. The best available estimates indicate that there were about the same number of Blacks and Hispanics in the state at that time.
Education levels across the state have risen sharply since 1960. At that time, of the 5.0 million persons age 25 or older, 1.1 million (22%) had only completed high school, 491,090 had some college (10%), and just 403,447 (8%) had a college degree. Now, more than 79% of people age 25+ have completed high school and 25% of Texans have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Educational levels are sometimes expressed as the highest level attained, but can also reflect the proportion of all persons with that level of education. So in 1960, a total of about 40% of Texans had completed high school or more, compared to almost 80% now. While Texas still has work to do in this area (we lag many parts of the nation in terms of educational attainment), the progress over the past 50 years is certainly good news.
Another sweeping change is the participation of women in the workforce. In 1960, only 33% of females (age 14 and older) were in the civilian workforce, compared to 74% of males. Now, the proportion of females (age 16 and older) who are in the workforce stands at about 59% statewide, and is even higher in more urban areas.
In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy was President, the first black student attended the University of Mississippi, and To Kill a Mockingbird was a bestseller. Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn were dominant political figures, and the boys from Liverpool were coming into their own. Much has changed since that time. The Texas population has more than doubled (closer to tripled) and become far more diverse. Texans are also far more educated. One can only wonder what the next 50 years will bring.
Dr. M. Ray Perryman is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com). He also serves as Institute Distinguished Professor of Economic Theory and Method at the International Institute for Advanced Studies.