Annual Kinder survey shows Houstonians less optimistic about crime and economy

Keaton Fox Image
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Houstonians are less optimistic about crime & economy, survey shows
The annual Kinder survey shows crime topped the list of concerning items, although it was only slightly above pessimism about the area's economy.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When it comes to what Houstonians are most concerned about, it comes as both a surprise and is completely expected.

It's crime.

In partnership with Rice University, that data point was released Monday by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research in its annual longitudinal survey. It's a treasure trove of insight into what people in and around Houston think and feel in just a short time after coming out of a pandemic that altered the city's economic and metaphorical landscape.

And while crime topped the list of concerning items, it was only slightly above a pessimism felt about the area's economy.

Buying a home remains a goal that is out of reach for many people in southeast Texas. The median price for a home in Texas has tripled over the last 10 years while wages have remained relatively flat, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The cost of housing is now top of mind, despite never appearing as a concern in previous surveys - registering at less than 1% of respondents as recently as 2021, then spiking to one in five this year.

The long-held selling points of Houston, where you can enjoy all the things a big city has to offer, along with the ability to enjoy a relatively low cost of living, seem to be dwindling, according to the analysis offered by this year's survey.

"The extreme economic turbulence brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic followed by surging inflation and the decadelong uptick in housing costs are eroding the basic promise Houston has long offered: that anyone can afford to live here and earn more, as long as they work hard," the survey authors said.

Nevertheless, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage growth has outpaced inflation for the first time in 24 months, and unemployment remains some of the lowest across Texas.

ABC13 legendary reporter Marvin Zindler regularly noted in his iconic growl that it is "hell to be poor," and economic inequality continues across Houston, according to the survey.

Half of Houstonians make $50,000 or less each year. Of those, 67% of Black residents and 65% of Hispanic residents make less than $50,000.

The survey asked residents if they had $400 in savings for an emergency. Overall, 43% of respondents said no. Black residents were the most unlikely to have $400 in savings, with 67% saying no, and 53% of Hispanic respondents saying no.

Just 23% of white respondents said they didn't have $400 in savings.

The survey asked about feelings around guns and exercise for the first time.

More than 78% of Houstonians said they have some support for the Second Amendment and the right to have guns. But of those who say the right to bear arms is "very important," 86% support background checks for all gun sales, and 65% favor federal handgun registration laws.

It's a uniquely "purple" political position in a very red state and a very blue city.

In a city that was once labeled "America's Fattest City," there has been little progress in getting people more active, it appears.

One in five residents never exercises, while half say they never engage in "vigorous" exercise.

Despite efforts to improve accessibility to bikes and parks, the city's infrastructure continues to favor cars more than two legs.

You can read the full report here.