Professor expected to tell Steamboat audience that income gap is America’s biggest challenge |

Professor expected to tell Steamboat audience that income gap is America’s biggest challenge

Tom Ross

— The opening speaker in the Seminars at Steamboat series is expected to tell his audience at Strings Music Pavilion at 5 p.m. Monday that it isn't an ethnic divide but rather the growing gap between economic classes that presents the greatest challenge for America in the coming years.

Professor Stephen Klineberg is a sociologist at Rice University in Houston who co-founded the Kinder Institute for Urban Research there. Houston is America's most ethnically diverse metropolitan region, and Klineberg predicts that all of the United States will resemble Houston in that regard within 25 years.

However, he said that although Houston has one of the best job markets in the country, the results of the most recent Houston Area Survey show the gap between rich and poor households is growing and blue-collar jobs continue to decline.

"We need to bridge the gap between rich and poor," he said in a prepared statement. "A stagnant society will lead to a stagnant economy, one that cannot compete in a global marketplace."

Klineberg will bring his message of income inequality to a community where ethnic diversity is limited and where more than half of all dwelling units typically are empty for much of the year because they are maintained as vacation homes.

Klineberg said the best way to attack the income divide is by boosting education across the board, with particular focus on access to quality preschools.

Recommended Stories For You

"We are seeing a growing gap in educational achievement by income, even more than by ethnicity," and the gap appears early in the life of a student, Klineberg said.

KUNC (88.5 FM) will air a one-hour edited version of the seminar at 8 p.m. July 21.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

Seminars at Steamboat calendar

July 8: Stephen Klineberg, sociologist and demographer at Rice University, will discuss “The Changing Face of America.”

July 25: Robert O’Harrow, a journalist at The Washington Post, will discuss “The Threat From Cyberspace: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.”

Aug. 1: Robin Raphel, the U.S. coordinator for nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan, will lead a discussion titled “Pakistan and its Difficult Neighbors.” Raphel is a career diplomat who holds the rank of ambassador.

Aug. 20: Martin Feldstein and William Gale will discuss “Reforming our Broken Tax System.” Feldstein is an economist at Harvard University and former director of the Council of Economic Advisers. Gale is chairman of economic policy at the Brookings Institution.

Tickets for Seminars events are free and will be distributed at 4:15 p.m. on the days of the talks that all begin at 5 p.m.