McLennan County Population Now Exceeds 230,000: Baylor Analysis Finds That Area Is 'Well Positioned' For 'Sustainable Growth'

March 19, 2009

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

Baylor University researchers with the Center for Community Research and Development (CCRD) today released their analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimate of McLennan County's population. With robust natural growth and domestic migration increasing, Baylor demographers said McLennan County and the Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) are well positioned to sustain its population and grow in a sustainable manner, despite the downturn in the economy.

As of July 2008, the Census Bureau estimates that the McLennan County population was 230,530 - an increase of 2,407 or about 1 percent over July of 2007. This continues slow but steady increases since 2000, when the area population hovered around 214,000. The county and MSA population is now about 7.7 percent more than it was in 2000.

The Baylor researchers said they were impressed with this sustainable growth trend.

"Even in these tough economic times, Waco and McLennan County are continuing to grow," said Dr. Larry Lyon, professor of sociology at Baylor and director of the CCRD.

In their analysis of the Census Bureau data, Baylor researchers found several trends about the composition of McLennan County's growth, including a population shift from international to domestic migration and a "natural" increase in population.

"In the early part of the decade, we saw 600 or so new residents each year as a result of international migration," said Dr. Charles Tolbert, professor and chair of Baylor's department of sociology. "By 2008, that number was down to an estimated 462."

However, Tolbert said McLennan County's decrease in international migration was offset by the addition of more residents through domestic migration. "Nationally, internal migration is down sharply, but not here," he said.

Dr. Carson Mencken, a Baylor sociologist and research professor at the CCRD, looked closely at the estimates for domestic migration or movement within the United States. After some years of negative domestic migration in which more persons moved to other parts of the state and nation, Mencken found that Waco and McLennan County moved back to positive net domestic migration.

"This was a source of 200 new residents in the last year," Mencken said.

But the largest increase - two-thirds of the Waco MSA and McLennan County population growth, in fact - is due to "natural increase," according to Dr. Robyn Driskell, research director of the CCRD and a Baylor sociologist who specializes in demography.

"That is, births are exceeding deaths by a significant margin," Driskell said.

Nearby Austin-Round Rock, Texas, was the nation's second fastest-growing metro area between 2007 and 2008, according to July 1, 2008, population estimates for the nation's metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas and counties. Austin-Round Rock experienced a 3.8 percent increase, to 1.7 million. Forty-seven of the 50 fastest-growing areas were located entirely in the South or West.

Population scientists at CCRD will continue to analyze these data, as well as additional detailed estimates, that will be released by the Census Bureau in the next few months.

For further information, contact the Center for Community Development, (254) 710-3811 or Tolbert at Charlie_Tolbert@baylor.edu.

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