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Publisher's Summary

Sociologist Stephen Klineberg presents fascinating and groundbreaking research that shows how the city of Houston has emerged as a microcosm for America’s future - based on an unprecedented 38-year study of its changing economic, demographic, and cultural landscapes.

Houston, Texas, long thought of as a traditionally blue-collar black/white Southern city, has transformed into one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse metro areas in the nation, surpassing even New York by some measures.

With a diversifying economy and large numbers of both highly skilled technical jobs in engineering and medicine and low-skilled minimum-wage jobs in construction, restaurant work, and personal services, Houston has become a magnet for the new divergent streams of immigration that are transforming America in the 21st century. And thanks to an annual systematic survey conducted over the past 38 years, the ongoing changes in attitudes, beliefs, and life experiences have been measured and studied, creating a compelling data-driven map of the challenges and opportunities that are facing Houston and the rest of the country.

In Prophetic City, we’ll meet some of the new Americans, including a family who moved to Houston from Mexico in the early 1980s and is still trying to find work that pays more than poverty wages. There’s a young man born to highly educated Indian parents in an affluent Houston suburb who grows up to become a doctor in the world’s largest medical complex, as well as a white man who struggles with being prematurely pushed out of the workforce when his company downsizes.

This timely and groundbreaking audiobook tracks the progress of an American city like never before. Houston is at the center of the rapid changes that have redefined the nature of American society itself in the new century. Houston is where, for better or worse, we can see the American future emerging.

©2020 Stephen L. Klineberg. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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As Goes Houston, So Does the US

I've been in Houston over 20 years and I've enjoyed getting a history lesson on the city, along with a forewarning on the necessary changes needed to ensure its future. Particularly, Houston's need to address education in a meaningful way, to enable its business community to continue to thrive.

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Not what it claims to be

This book was one I was very excited to read, but ended up being very disappointed with. I apologize in advance for the length of this review, but these are the kind of books that really bother me. It’s billed as a book “based on a thirty-eight year study of its [Houston’s] economic, demographic and cultural landscapes.” Instead this book is instead a political diatribe couched in the idea that it’s an impartial study or work of science. As someone from the center, who is more of a numbers and statistics person, I find this slight of hand a bit offensive.

This book very much leans to the left. Once again I find myself trying to dissect a political book from the center, for those who are more interested in facts than rhetoric. It’s pretty hard with this one, but I will try my best...

It begins with a brief history of the City of Houston, and its founding. The history of the city itself is very spot on, though even here little credit is given to the mentality of the people and instead is given to government help. The city is portrayed as immoral one minute, but then the morality of those moving to Houston from other parts of the country (ie. Ken Lay) is questioned. It’s as if the actual history of the city is fighting with the author’s narrative.

Though, it’s after the city’s history that the book becomes more and more an opinion piece. Often the author says things like the facts or statistics are “real and indisputable,” however those facts or statistics are never presented. They are obviously “indisputable” when the statistics or sources are not presented! It’s impossible to verify the statistics. The moments that statistics are present are when they back up the author’s premise. Breakdowns of the stats are not given when they could contradict the author’s point of view.

The author’s biases are on full display throughout the book. At one point the author laments to an interviewee “lack of progress on Social Justice issues.” While this may be a logical complaint, it seems like it would be better made by the interviewee rather than the interviewer. At another point the author gloats that the “closed minded church based socially conservative religiosity” is diminishing. At another point describing a volunteer who helped Hurricane Katrina refugees the author calls her, “as right wing crazy as they come.” These seem like unnecessary commentary.

Very few center or right leaning politicians or businesspersons are interviewed. Often when they are, such as former Republican Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the author asks why they didn’t do more to solve the problems they may talk about. The same is never asked of the former Democratic politicians. While Democrat Bob Lanier is portrayed negatively, none of the other mayors are really questioned. The corruption under current mayor Sylvester Turner is never mentioned, despite it being a big enough issue that he faced a general election challenge from Dwight Boykins in his own party. When he does quote someone from the right side of the political spectrum the come from the very very far right.

When talking about Houston floods, the other makes some good points. Though here again it would seem that facts and numbers are not included.

The author’s distain for the oil industry is readily apparent. Again the author ignores facts and figures in place of personal opinion. The Industry that built the city of Houston is treated more as a detriment than an advantage.

The statement is made that the oil companies do not do enough to benefit the city’s many charities and activities. This is an odd statement considering they sponsor the Houston Zoo (ConocoPhillips, P66, Marathon, Lyondell, Centpoint Energy, TXU Energy), the Houston Museum of Natural Science (Chevron, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Shell, Oxy, Transocean, Marathon, and more), the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (Enbridge, CenterPoint, Schlumberger, etc) and Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (BP, NRG, Hess, Shell, P66 and more) among others. Even the author’s own surveys are sponsored by Richard Kinder’s foundation, who was an Enron executive and founder of Kinder-Morgan. This makes the author’s statements on this subject a bit disingenuous.

Honestly, this review would need to be a book of its own to point out all the skewed information presented in this book. For those looking for someone to be an echo chamber for their political beliefs will find this book to be a good read. However, anyone who is looking for an honest fact filled book on a metro area that is the size of Massachusetts will find this book doesn’t fit the bill. While it’s still worth reading, this book is not what it purports to be. Overall, giving it 2 stars seems generous, but 1 star would be too harsh.