Suburban Surge | The Perryman Group

Suburban Surge

By: Dr. M. Ray Perryman
Published in syndication April 17, 2024

New Census data confirms what many people around the state have observed - Texas metropolitan areas and the surrounding counties are seeing a notable population surge. The data (which reflects estimated changes between July 1, 2022 and July 1, 2023) provides an overview of the changes for local areas, and it is eye-opening!

Only about 60% of US counties gained population from 2022 to 2023. The Northeast continues to have more counties losing than gaining, and, for the first time since 2020, the Midwest finally had more gainers than losers. The West is doing okay (led by Arizona), but it's the South where growth is greatest and momentum is building.

There are three components to population change. The rate of natural increase reflects births minus deaths, and in about 69% of US counties there was a natural decrease due to the aging population and historically low fertility rates. International migration is another important component, and 80% of counties saw at least some increase in this category. The big game changer is domestic migration, which is simply people moving around the country. Many of these folks are headed to Texas.

Eight of the 10 counties leading the nation by numeric change in 2023 were in Texas, including the top three. Harris County saw the largest gain, adding 53,788 residents, followed by Collin County (36,364) and Montgomery County (31,800). Maricopa County, Arizona was fourth and Polk County, Florida was fifth. The remainder of the top 10 were in Texas including Denton (29,943), Fort Bend (27,859), Bexar (27,488), Tarrant (27,301), and Williamson (24,918).

Several of these counties (Collin, Denton, Williamson, and Fort Bend) also made the list of the highest level of net domestic migration. The suburban counties surrounding dynamic Texas urban centers are seeing substantial expansion. Kaufman, Rockwall, Liberty, Chambers, Comal, and Ellis counties were among the 10 fastest growing in the US in percentage terms (for counties with populations of 20,000 or more), with growth rates ranging from 7.6% to 4.9%.

Taking a slightly larger geographic view, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area grew more than any other in the nation, up 152,598 for the year to top eight million. Houston-Pasadena-The Woodlands was second with 139,789 new residents to exceed 7.5 million; this gain was twice that of third-ranked greater Atlanta.

It's a vastly different story in many parts of the country including the Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago areas (among others), where people are leaving by the tens of thousands. An exodus of residents makes it almost impossible to sustain a vibrant economy offering opportunities for advancement, which in turn leads more people to leave. Although growth certainly brings challenges that we must address, their loss is Texas' gain. Stay safe!