Sure, Houston can boast that it's the Energy Capital of the World. That's undisputed. However, Houston also is making strides in the wider range of STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
A new study from the American Enterprise Institute's Housing Center finds Houston is No. 2 among the best U.S. metro areas for STEM workers. Dallas-Fort Worth topped the ranking, and Austin earned the No. 4 spot.
The American Enterprise Institute sifted through data in three categories — STEM employment in 2018, overall employment growth since 1990, and affordability for first-time homebuyers — to devise its ranking. In all, the institute examined the 30 metro areas with the most STEM jobs.
Houston landed at:
- No. 10 for STEM employment, with 207,000 jobs in 2018. (The Greater Houston Partnership puts the current figure at more than 240,000).
- No. 6 for overall employment growth (70 percent) since 1990.
- No. 6 for median home price for first-time buyers.
The study notes that the vibrancy of home construction helped Houston maintain a high rate of employment growth and a high score for home affordability.
"On one hand, some metro areas with relatively high home prices are desirable places to live in terms of jobs and local amenities," the study says. "On the other hand, house prices may be higher than they really need to be due to local policies that needlessly drive up the price of land and thereby constrain the amount of new housing. Households should be aware of these tradeoffs."
Houston fared better in the American Enterprise Institute study than it did in a recent STEM ranking from personal finance website WalletHub. To determine the best markets for STEM professionals, WalletHub compared the 100 largest metro areas across 20 key metrics. Houston ranked 33rd, while Dallas-Fort Worth ranked 38th and Austin came in at No. 4.
Whether Houston stands at No. 2 or No. 33, business leaders are confident the region is fertile territory for STEM.
"Houston's talent base of 300,000 educated millennials and more than 240,000 STEM workers power our leading industries, including life sciences, energy, and manufacturing and logistics," says Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership.
"For us to continue to compete and grow in these critical sectors," Davenport adds, "we need to continue to foster and attract new STEM talent and market the positive attributes that make Houston a great place to live."
The Greater Houston Partnership touts several strengths that will propel the region's STEM sector, including:
- The Texas Medical Center's recently announced TMC3 research hub.
- A firm foothold in the life sciences industry, thanks to the Texas Medical Center, the world's largest complex of healthcare and life science institutions.
- NASA's Johnson Space Center.
- A cluster of more than 6,000 manufacturers.
Davenport points to establishment of Houston's four-mile-long Innovation Corridor — featuring an array of startup accelerators and tech incubators — as another vehicle for STEM success. At the heart of the corridor will be Rice University's new $100 million innovation hub, known as The Ion.
The corridor, she says, "will help Houston create the next generation of companies solving big problems."