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Explosive Texas Population Growth
But the state’s rate of growth has slowed slightly in this decade, to an annual population increase of about 1.6 percent compared with about 2 percent a year between 2000 and 2010, said Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer.
Overall, Texas ranked third in rate of growth at 5.2 percent since the last census, behind North Dakota and the District of Columbia. Washington, D.C., grew by about 7.4 percent over that period, and sparsely settled but oil-rich North Dakota added 7.6 percent to its population — slightly less than 50,000 new residents.
The latest state estimates also show that most of the nation’s population growth is in the Southern and Western states, with the Northeast and Midwest growing at far lower rates. Florida, for example, could pass New York in the next year to become the nation’s third-largest state.
But rates of growth across the U.S. are slowing, demographers say.
“If you look at the national pattern in these census numbers, there will be somewhat slower growth than there was in the last decade,” said Steve Murdock, former head of the U.S. Census Bureau and now director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. “The country grew by about 27 million people from 2000 to 2010. At the present rate, we’ll add about 23 million people from 2010 to 2020.”
In population growth, Texas remains a state sharply divided between rural and urban-suburban areas.
Population estimates for cities and metro areas released in the last year or so show sharp growth in the Midland-Odessa region because of the oil and gas boom. But the state’s largest metropolitan areas saw the greatest increases — Dallas-Fort Worth, especially in the northern suburbs; Houston, most notably in Montgomery and Fort Bend counties; Austin and its northern neighbors; greater San Antonio; El Paso; and the booming Rio Grande Valley, Potter said.
Almost 100 rural counties, especially in the Panhandle and East Texas, have lost population, the demographers said.They’re also seeing shifts in how the population increases.“Historically, if you look at [Texas] growth, about half comes from natural increase and half from migration,” Murdock said. “And the migration numbers were about 50-50, with a little more domestic than international. But when we look at numbers through 2012, about a third of that is international and two-thirds domestic migration.“In Texas, the immigration component has dropped while domestic migration has picked up,” he said.Among major racial and ethnic groups, birth rates have fallen across the board.“Fertility for all groups, except Hispanics, is below replacement level,” Murdock said, “and the Hispanic rate has come down.”
But Potter sees the potential for greater rates of births as younger families settle around the major urban counties in the state.
“Right now we see migration as the real driver of growth,” Potter said. “But when migration begins to fill these suburban counties up with young families, you’ll see the rate of natural increase going up in the counties as well.”And while strong population growth is a good thing in many ways, it also poses challenges, he said.“When you have this rapid growth, you have the challenges of providing infrastructure to deal with the growth,” Potter said. “You have continued stress on the water supply, transportation issues, those kinds of things.“We have to be aware that with rapid population change, we need to make sure the infrastructure is there to maintain the quality of life.”
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