A unique blend of analysis and research that is likely to become a classic work of scholarship on Houston.

PROPHETIC CITY

HOUSTON ON THE CUSP OF A CHANGING AMERICA

A veteran sociologist maps nearly four decades of changes in an urban “bellwether of change.”

“Houston is America on demographic fast-forward,” Klineberg argues in a trailblazing study that draws on 38 years of annual surveys of residents’ views by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, of which the author is the founding director. His strongest evidence includes the “entropy index,” or “how close a given population comes to having equal fourths of Asians, blacks, Hispanics, and Anglos.” As the author notes, “by that measure, the Houston region is virtually tied with the New York metro for the diversity crown.” Yet as the city has predicted and reflected the American shift toward a more multiethnic society, it embodies the nation’s paradoxes. An anti-government, pro-business city, Houston elected the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city, Annise Parker, in 2009, but voted against guaranteeing equal rights for the LGBTQ community in 2015. The city remains “profoundly segregated,” marked by growing income and educational inequalities. Underlying such realities are region-specific variations on national concerns such as crime, pollution, immigration, traffic congestion, and climate and economic uncertainties. Built on a swampy, bayou-laced, Gulf Coast floodplain, the city is vulnerable to devastating storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and it has an industrial base in petrochemicals, raising “the question of how much longer oil and gas can sustain the Houston economy” as people turn to alternate energy sources. Although perhaps too optimistic in his conclusion that Houstonians can help to build “a truly successful universal city and nation, the first of its kind in human history,” Klineberg supports his case with a wealth of survey research, interviews with experts, and user-friendly graphs, all of which make this book invaluable for anyone seeking a deep understanding of an underappreciated city.

A unique blend of analysis and research that is likely to become a classic work of scholarship on Houston.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7791-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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