Texas suburbs bursting with new residents; see how much they’ve grown
June 22, 2016
By now, Texans may be getting weary of the constant stream of growth superlatives. The state and its major metro areas routinely top lists of the places attracting companies and new residents, both from abroad and from other states.
And census population data released this week doesn’t do much to buck that trend: Houston, for instance, was second only to New York City in terms of the raw number of residents it added from July 2014 to July 2015.
But while Texas’ largest cities continued to add tens of thousands of residents last year, it’s the suburbs that are seeing the most marked transformation.
“The story for Texas is really that it’s increasingly the [Interstate] 35 corridor we’ve talked about for years,” said Steve Murdock, a former head of the U.S. census and now director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “You start at the Oklahoma border, then there’s a few miles in between before you hit the suburbs of Dallas … through Waco to the Austin suburbs that now run really with no gaps between Austin and San Antonio.”
Georgetown, one of those I-35 corridor cities outside Austin, was the fastest-growing city in the country with a population of 50,000 or more. Its population rose by 7.8 percent to 63,716, from July 2014 to July 2015.
It was followed by New Braunfels, also located along I-35, but south of Austin toward San Antonio, which grew by 6.6 percent.
Frisco came in fourth, growing by 6.3 percent in one year, to 154,407.
Meanwhile, during the same time period, the city of Dallas grew by 1.5 percent — less than the state overall — despite adding 19,642 residents.
Over five years, the difference is even more pronounced, with Dallas growing by 8.5 percent from 2010 to 2015, compared to say, Frisco, which grew by 32 percent over that time period. Dallas also trailed the state, which grew 9.2 percent during that time.
Georgetown grew by 34.4 percent over the five years.
Economic development is one of the biggest drivers of the state’s population growth; people tend to follow jobs, economists say, and Texas cities — particularly suburban ones outside Dallas and Austin — are adding lots of those.
Texas state demographer Lloyd Potter said that there’s “concentric pressure,” pushing growth outward from urban cores to the suburban ring cities.
And as employers move into those areas, developers are buying up available land for homes.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs is what’s driving them,” he said of cities like Frisco, Georgetown and San Marcos — which was the fastest-growing city in the country in 2014.
But another factor is the state’s diversity, Murdock said.
That contributes to what Murdock described as a perhaps obvious, but sometimes forgotten, population booster: natural increases, or more babies being born than people dying.
While the country’s white population has been “below replacement,” for decades, and the African-American population is roughly “at replacement,” other ethnic groups tend to be younger, which means families in those populations are having more kids, he said.
“You see [Texas] with a strong, vibrant Asian and Hispanic population,” he said. “That diversity adds to the underlying economic growth and expansion.”
In part as a result, Texas as a state is younger than the nation overall, which puts it in a better position to grow through its birth rate.
“The thing about Texas’ population growth is people automatically jump to migration and that’s certainly an important component,” said Mike Cline, the Hobby Center’s associate director. “But what Texas has benefited from is, relative to the rest of the U.S., it’s got a younger population and a growing Hispanic population.”
Still, there are parts of Texas that are fading, even in the midst of a population boom.
Cline said that although about 70 percent of the state’s cities saw population increases, more than a quarter declined in population from 2010 to 2015.
Most of those, he said, are in rural areas hit hard by consolidation in the agriculture industry.
“Texas has since the ’50s been a mostly urban state and it continues to become more and more urban,” he said.
He cited the example of Plainview, a city outside of Lubbock that lost 1,275 residents from 2010 to 2015 or 5.7 percent of its population, the data showed.
“That’s where my father grew up,” Cline said. “It’s a farming community … [and it] used to have a bunch of district headquarters for seed companies, but because of consolidation, the farming and agriculture aren’t there anymore.”
Cline predicted that as rural residents head for big cities and suburbs in search of more job opportunities, services will become more and more scarce in the small communities they’re leaving behind, sending them into a kind of spiral.
Smaller towns that are heavily dependent on oil and gas have managed to maintain some level of growth, Cline said, but this time next year, that, too, could change.
Potter said that a slight slow-down in Houston’s growth in 2014 and continuing in the most recent data could have been a kind of “canary in the coal mine,” ahead of the oil bust late last year.
Nevertheless, Potter said that Texas is still roughly on pace with projections that the state will double its population from 2010 to 2050.
Full story: The Dallas Morning News