concentrated in the top one percent, and mostly in the top one-tenth of that one percent.
Equalizing institutions, noted Dr. Klineberg, need to be established to assure that all Americans are able to share in the prosperity of the country. Accelerating economic growth without any changes is not the way forward. The only way to improve is to invest in the skills of the American worker. Education has become the critical determinant of a person’s ability to earn enough money to have a quality life and support a family. Houston is a good example of social and economic divisions inherent in much of the United States. Houston has one of the greatest medical complexes in the country—the Texas Medical Center—but it also has one of the highest percentages of children without health insurance of any major city in the United States. The gap between rich and poor has become a central political challenge, and new strategies are needed to replace older ones that worked in the past but no longer meet the needs of today’s economy.
Dr. Klineberg described some of the sectors where job growth is most likely. For example, the biotechnology and nanotechnology sectors are expanding with research being conducted at the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. Houston’s economy will move toward more of a knowledge economy, and the city will need to compete to attract the best and brightest people working at the cutting edge and put that knowledge into commercial ventures. This makes quality-of-life issues more important. A striking example is the attitude of business to air quality regulations. Through most of the 1990s, the business community in Houston pushed back against regulations EPA promulgated under the Clean Air Act, insisting that industry would not survive if it had to comply with more stringent standards. Then, in June 1999, newspaper headlines announced that Houston had surpassed Los Angeles in the number of dangerously polluted days (Institute for Health Policy, 2006). Now, Dr. Klineberg commented, the business community sees environmental regulations as far from being anti-growth or anti-business, but rather essential to Houston’s economic prosperity in the 21st century. The business community understands that the city will not continue to prosper if it is perceived as hot, flat, and dangerously polluted.
Another example of progress can be seen in the desire for the revitalization of downtown Houston. In 2010, Dr. Klineberg’s survey asked residents which type of home they would prefer to live in, and 41 percent of all adults in Harris County – one of the most automobile dependent areas in America – responded that they would prefer to live in