SOME RESEARCH QUESTIONS FOR WHICH THE HAS DATA ARE
The overall objectives of the Houston
Area Survey are two-fold. First, the project seeks to
clarify the nature of ongoing social change by measuring
systematically, using identical questions repeated
periodically over the course of 24 years, the way successive
representative samples of Harris County residents
are responding to some remarkable societal changes. In
particular, the surveys measure public responses (a) to the
accelerating immigration and growing ethnic diversity of the
Houston (and American) population, and (b) to the economic
restructuring that has resulted in widening income
inequalities and in the growing importance for a city's
prosperity of the public schools and the “knowledge
industries,” and of the environment and other
Second, the project explores the bases for
individual differences in the way area residents are
responding to these ongoing societal changes. It pays
particular attention in this regard to the impact of age or
cohort effects; of gender, ethnic backgrounds, and immigrant
generation; of educational attainment and household income;
of political perspectives and religious orientations; and of
the demographic characteristics of respondents’
neighborhoods -- as these personal and contextual attributes
interact to account for individual differences in the
attitudes and beliefs that area residents have developed.
Listed here are some of the more specific substantive
research questions for which these annual surveys provide
particularly rich and relevant data:
A. The New Ethnic Diversity.
(1) Changes over time in the
distributions and attitudinal correlates associated with
assessments of interethnic relations, as measured on
10-point scales, for the relationships that exist between
the respondent's own ethnic group and each of the other
three communities -- among all four ethnic populations and
across six years of expanded surveys.
(2) The nature and distribution
of the contemporary forms of ethnic prejudice (a.k.a.,
"modern," "symbolic," "laissez-faire," or "color-blind"
racism) -- as indicated, for example, in beliefs about
discrimination, attitudes toward intermarriage, explanations
for intergroup inequalities, the impact of a neighborhood’s
ethnic composition on the decision to purchase a home, the
actual patterns of residential segregation in neighborhoods,
The determinants of individual differences in attitudes
toward and beliefs about the new wave of immigrants, both
across and within Houston’s four major ethnic communities.
(4) Intergroup differences in
the attitudes and beliefs that are associated with increases
in SES (INCOME, EDUC) among Anglos, African Americans, and
Latinos. Why, for example, do Anglos and Latinos become
Republicans with increasing incomes, but African Americans
do not? Why are the more affluent African Americans more
sensitive to discrimination and more pessimistic about the
economy in general than the less affluent African Americans?
(5) Explorations of the
differences in socioeconomic status and in patterns of
cultural and attitudinal assimilation among first-, second-,
and third-generation Latinos.
B. The Restructured Economy.
(6) Changes over time in the
distributions and determinants of economic optimism and
pessimism with regard to personal, local, and national
prospects (e.g., PAST3YRS, NEXT3YRS; JOBOPPS, HOCHANGE;
(7) The evidence for and
determinants of the growing income gap between rich and poor
across the 24 years of Houston surveys.
(8) The “social location” of
personal well-being in the Houston area,
based on asking respondents in each of the past five years:
“Is your overall state of health these days excellent, very
good, good, fair, or poor?” (OWNSTATE). This question is
generally considered to be the single most reliable
indicator of an individual's actual state of health.
(9) Changes over time in the
distributions and determinants of environmental concern and
of support for new initiatives to improve the quality of air
and water in this famously free-enterprise, laissez-faire
(10) Changes over time in the
distributions and determinants of attitudes toward other
quality-of-life issues (e.g., traffic problems and proposed
solutions, preference for city vs. suburban living, support
for downtown revitalization, urban amenities and
beautification, etc.) -- as Houston seeks to become a
“destination of choice” for the new knowledge workers.
(11) The determinants of individual
differences among area residents in their reported
participation in volunteer activities, as one measure along
with other indicators of the extent and distribution of
“social capital” within the general Harris County population.
C. Other Dimensions of Social Change.
(12) Age-Cohort-Period Effects:
Did the respondents who were 30 to 40 years old in 1985
express attitudes and beliefs that are similar to those of
30- to 40-year-olds in 2005 (reflecting the effects of age
or life stage--e.g., NEXT3YRS) or are they more similar to
the 50- to 60-year-olds in 2005 (cohort effects--e.g.,
WIFESJOB), or do both age groups in 2005 differ in similar
ways from the 30- to 40-year-olds in 1985 (period
(13) Changes over time in the
distributions and determinants of attitudes toward capital
punishment and criminal sentencing in Harris County,
the “Death Penalty Capital of America.”
(14) Changes over time in perspectives on
abortion rights and on homosexuality: the important role of
the “tolerant traditionalists,” the differential propensity
for “single-issue” voting, etc.
(15) Changes over time in the
distributions and attitudinal correlates of political
perspectives, as measured by political ideology --
“liberal,” “moderate,” or “conservative” (POLITICS) and/or
by party affiliation -- “Republican,” “Independent,” or
“Democrat” (PARTY, TRUPARTY).
(16) Changes over time in the
distributions and attitudinal correlates of religious
orientations, where BIBLE and RELIMP might be combined into
three categories of religiosity -- the "”Biblical
Fundamentalists,” the “Religious Progressives,” and the