Houston Area Survey, 1982-2010

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > General Population > Local/Regional > Others > Summary


For the past 28 years, these countywide, random-digit-dialed, computer-assisted telephone surveys have systematically measured the continuities and changes in demographic patterns, life experiences, attitudes and beliefs among successive representative samples of Harris County residents. Using identical items across the years, with new questions added periodically, the annual Houston Area Survey (HAS) has tracked America’s fourth largest city in the process of fundamental transformation.

Houston recovered from deep recession in the 1980s to find itself squarely in the midst of a restructured economy and a demographic revolution. New economic, educational, and environmental challenges have redefined the "pro-growth" strategies required for urban prosperity in the twenty-first century. At the same time, major immigration flows have transformed Houston into one of the nation's most culturally diverse metropolitan areas, at the center of the transformations that are refashioning the social and political landscape of urban America. The overall purpose of this continuing project is to measure systematically the way area residents are responding to these remarkable changes, and to make the findings of this research widely available to the general public and to research scholars everywhere.

Conducted annually during February and March, the interviews measure perspectives on the local and national economies, on poverty programs, interethnic relationships, and the new immigration; beliefs about discrimination and affirmative action, about education, crime, health care, taxation, and community service; assessments of downtown development, mobility and transit, land-use controls, and environmental concerns; attitudes toward abortion, homosexuality, and other aspects of “the social agenda.” They record religious and political orientations, as well as a rich array of demographic and immigration characteristics, socioeconomic indicators, and family structures.

Data File
Cases: 17,898
Variables: 770
Weight Variable: None
Data Collection
Date Collected: Conducted annually during February and March from 1982 to 2010
Funded By
AT&T Foundation, Gallery Furniture, Greater Houston Community Foundation, Houston Chronicle, Houston Endowment Inc., Swalm Foundation, United Way of Greater Houston, Vinson & Elkins L.L.P., Amegy Bank, Bank of America, CenterPoint Energy, Fiesta Mart, H-E-B Company, Jain & Jain CPAs, JPMorganChase–Houston, KHOU-TV Channel 11, Memorial Hermann Hospital System, Palmetto Partners Ltd., Pinto America Growth Fund L.P., Sterling Bank, Wachovia Foundation, Wells Fargo, American Leadership Forum, Houston/Gulf Coast Chapter, BMC Software Inc., Center for, Houston’s Future, Compass Bank, CRC Foundation, Deloitte & Touche, The Everett Family Fund, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., Group 1 Automotive Inc., Hines Interests Limited Partnership, Houston Rockets, Indo-American Charity Foundation, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation, KTRK-TV Channel 13, Leadership Houston, Linbeck Group L.P., Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell L.L.P, Lovett Homes Inc., Management Leadership for, Tomorrow–Houston, Marek Brothers Systems Inc, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw L.L.P., Merrill Lynch, MetroNational,, Reliant Energy, Shell Oil Company Foundation, Stanford and Joan Alexander Foundation, State Farm Insurance, Companies, Texas Children's Hospital, Waste Management Inc., Whitney National Bank, Wulfe and Co., F. J. Hank, Coleman, Jr., Janice M. Crawford, John Walsh, The Honorable Bob Lanier, Linda L. S. Moroney, Eugene Vaughan
Collection Procedures
In order to ensure that every Harris County adult living in a household with a telephone will have an equal probability of being interviewed, survey respondents are selected annually through a two-stage procedure. In each household reached by randomly generated telephone numbers, the designated respondent is selected randomly from all household members aged 18 or older. Using “back translation” and the reconciliation of discrepancies, each year’s questionnaire is translated into Spanish, and bilingual interviewers are assigned to the project at all times.
Sampling Procedures
In the early years, the sample sizes ranged from 412 to 550; since 1990, they have been set at around 650, and more recently at 700 (see the Ns by year, p. 53). Response rates (the number of completed interviews in relation to all potentially eligible phone numbers) averaged 75 percent during the 1980s; but in this new age of “caller ID’s,” answering machines and cell phones, the response rates have fallen in recent years to around 30 percent. Cooperation rates (the ratio of completions to interviews plus refusals) remained for many years at around 80 percent; they too have declined, to about 45 percent, more recently.

In 16 of the past 17 surveys (the years from 1994 through 2010, except for 1996), the surveys have been expanded with “oversample” interviews in Houston’s ethnic communities. Using identical random-selection procedures, and terminating after the first few questions if the respondent is not of the ethnic background required, additional interviews have been conducted in each of the years to enlarge and equalize the samples of Anglo, African American, and Hispanic respondents at about 500 each. In 1995 and 2002, the research included large representative sam-ples (N=500) from Houston’s Asian communities, with one-fourth of the interviews being conducted in Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, or Korean — the only such surveys in the country.
Principal Investigators
Professor Stephen L. Klineberg, Department of Sociology, Rice University