December 2007 brought the start of a national recession second only to the Great Depression. The collapse of the financial and housing markets resulted in more than 8.4 million Americans losing their jobs and the unemployment rate doubling in less than two years. An estimated 2.5 million homes have been foreclosed between 2007-2009, with projections reaching 10 million foreclosures between 2009-2012.
Texas was slower to enter the recession and has fared slightly better than the national average. The state had the highest population growth, stronger job growth, less unemployment and a fraction of the housing foreclosures during the recession. Projections are cautious about continued economic growth and recovery, however. Due in part to the economic crisis, the state of Texas faces an estimated $27 billion shortfall during the 2011-2012 biennium, the largest deficit in the history of the state. This shortfall will undoubtedly result in budget reductions to the Texas Historical Commission, as well as other state agencies who work with historic and cultural resource preservation. It could also impact grant programs and funding to communities for preservation work.
The recession has not slowed the population growth of the state. The U.S. Census estimates 24.8 million people living in Texas in 2009, an 18.8 percent increase from 2000. Texas is projected to have a steady population growth of 2 percent, due largely in part to migration. Significant to this growth is the change in demographics. Hispanics are projected to be the majority by the quarter-century mark. The number of households in the state is increasing; however, their size and homogeneity is decreasing. By 2040, it is projected that at least 60 percent of householders will be non-Anglo and the average householder will be over the age of 50.
These changes in demographics will be accompanied by trends in development and settlement patterns. As the population increases, so will continued development around major metropolitan regions of the state. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s population growth is taking place just outside of cities’ boundaries in unincorporated areas. These are areas that contain previously undisturbed archeological and historic resources, and that local county governments lack land use controls to effectively protect these resources. Conversely, as people continue to migrate to and around urban areas, rural communities will experience population loss and a dwindling tax base.
The short and long-term impact of the recession on historic and cultural resource preservation is difficult to predict. Undoubtedly, agencies and organizations are finding it harder to raise funds for projects and programs related to preserving historic and cultural places and traditions, and financing for building projects is more difficult to secure. However, many see the recession as an opportunity for the preservation of historic and cultural places. With the slowing of new construction and development, sites that might otherwise have been altered or destroyed may escape demolition. As local, state and federal spending dwindles on public improvement projects, historic and cultural sites may be spared. The recession may also result in a culture shift away from conspicuous consumption to thrift and savings, where we use the resources we have to our best ability. Reusing old buildings and investing in historic and cultural sites and traditions can be seen as an attractive, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly cornerstone of recovery, one that has cumulative and lasting economic and social value.
 Elise Gould and Heidi Shierholz, A lost decade: Poverty and income trends paint a bleak picture for working families, www.epi.org/publications/entry/a_lost_decade_poverty_and_income_trends (September 16, 2010);
 Debbie Gruenstein Bocian, Wei Li, and Keith S. Ernst. Foreclosures by Race and Ethnicity: The Demographics of a Crisis, http://www.responsiblelending.org/mortgage-lending/research-analysis/foreclosures-by-race-and-ethnicity.pdf (June 18, 2010).
 Anil Kumar and Yingda Bi. “Regional Economic Update: Texas Recovery Plods along in August,” http://www.dallasfed.org/research/update-reg/2010/1006.cfm (September 23, 2010).
 Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; Texas State Data Center, 2010.