Houston Muslim Study

Policy Paper
May 20, 2022


The purpose of the Houston Muslim Study is to provide an in-depth and policy-relevant study, through a non-security lens, about American Muslims at the local level in Houston, Texas. The study offers fresh insights and helps shape a discussion about American Muslims that is data-driven and moves beyond the generalizations, prejudices, and fear that too often surround public and policy discourses about Muslim communities in America.


In 2018, New America contracted with SSRS in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, to conduct the Houston Muslim Study. The study sought to interview Muslim residents of Houston to learn more about their experiences living in Houston, their perceptions of quality of life for Muslims in Houston, their levels of civic engagement, and the extent to which they, their families, and their friends face discrimination or other challenges as a result of their faith.

From March 15, 2018, through March 1, 2021, the survey instrument was developed through a series of focus groups, one-on-one interviews, meetings with Muslim community leaders, meetings with larger Muslim community groups in Houston, and input from subject matter experts. The survey was conducted from March 30, 2021, through May 2, 2021, and had a total of 773 respondents.

This is the largest study ever conducted with American Muslims at the local level in the United States.

Key Findings

Demographics of Houston Muslims

  • The majority of respondents to the Houston Muslim Study reside in Harris County (54 percent), with an additional 27 percent in Fort Bend and 12 percent in Brazoria County. A combined 6 percent live in Galveston, Montgomery, and Waller Counties. Of those who responded to the survey, two-thirds are male and one-third female, so the sample is skewed toward men. Thirteen percent of respondents are between the ages of 18 and 29, 48 percent are 30-49, 27 percent are 50-64, and 12 percent are 65 or older.
  • The sample of respondents is very highly educated, with 86 percent having a college degree or higher, and 51 percent having a postgraduate degree.

Professional Occupations of Houston Muslims

  • Of the listed professional categories, the highest percentage of survey respondents (36 percent) work in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field. Nine percent are a physician or surgeon and 11 percent work in some other healthcare-related field. Ten percent are some type of educator, and 2 percent are lawyers. Twelve percent of women and 1 percent of men are stay-at-home parents. Nine percent are business owners or entrepreneurs, and 2 percent are students.
  • Of those who are employed in some sort of health care profession, including doctors, 64 percent treated COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.
  • In the 12 months prior to the pandemic, physicians and surgeons saw an average of 1,178 patients.
  • Respondents who said they are entrepreneurs employ an average of 32.7 people in their companies.

Houston Muslims’ Connections to and Feelings about Houston

  • Half of all survey respondents have lived in Houston for at least 20 years, demonstrating that the Muslim community has longevity in the area. Even 49 percent of those not born in the United States have resided in Houston for 20 years or more.
  • Ninety-five percent of respondents report that it is “very” or “somewhat” accurate to say that Houston is a great city to live in and raise a family. The same proportion say that Houston is an accepting and welcoming community to most minorities, and 94 percent say that Houston is specifically accepting and welcoming to Muslims.

Civic Engagement by Houston Muslims

  • Four-fifths of respondents devote at least some time to volunteering to support civic, social, and/or religious organizations in Houston in the 12 months prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost two-fifths devote three or more hours to volunteering. Women (46 percent) were more likely than men (35 percent) to fall on the higher end of hours spent doing volunteer work.
  • In the 12 months prior to Covid-19, 86 percent of respondents donated to some local charitable cause, while 43 percent donated to a Texas-wide charity. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) donated to national charitable causes and almost three-fourths (74 percent) donated to an international charitable cause during that time period.
  • During the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, 81 percent donated to a local charity, 41 percent to a Texas-wide charitable cause, 57 percent to a national charity, and 69 percent to an international charity.
  • The majority of survey respondents worked in their communities to provide assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Sixty-seven percent personally gave money to support victims of the hurricane and more than half (54 percent) personally volunteered their time to help those who suffered from its effects.
  • Just over a third of respondents donated money to a national or local political campaign in both 2016 and 2020. Sixteen percent volunteered with a local or national campaign in 2016 and 17 percent volunteered in 2020.

Challenges Facing Houston Muslims

  • Almost all female respondents (93 percent) and most males (86 percent) are at least “somewhat” concerned about Muslim children getting bullied in schools.
  • The vast majority (87 percent) are also at least “somewhat” concerned about harassment of women and girls in public places.
  • Three-fourths of respondents (77 percent) are at least “somewhat” concerned about Muslims facing bias in the workplace.
  • Three-fourths of respondents worry about Muslims dealing with courts and judges, and 81 percent are concerned about discrimination Houston Muslims might face when encountering law enforcement. Over half are apprehensive about Houston Muslims facing bias when interacting with healthcare professionals.
  • More than eight-in-10 (83 percent) are concerned about threats or violence toward Muslims in public places, and 72 percent worry about local efforts through zoning or ordinances that are intended to prevent Mosques or other Islamic centers from being built.
  • Almost two-thirds (63 percent) have personally experienced bullying or harassment on one or more social media platforms as a result of being Muslim. About one-third (32 percent) said they had seen hateful content about Muslims on one or more social media platforms.
  • Close to half of respondents have been singled out for extra security screenings at the airport. Notably, those who were born in the United States were more likely to report being singled out for airport screenings than those born in another country (53 percent vs. 39 percent).