Is Bigger Better?

Dec. 23, 2008

Baylor analysts comment on new Texas census data

New data show that the population of Texas continues to expand, and community and demographic analysts with Baylor University's Center for Community Research and Development say such phenomenal growth is consistent with past gains and means the state's infrastructure could be strained.

New figures released Dec. 22 on state-level 2008 population trends by the U.S. Census Bureau show Texas with 483,542 more people than the bureau's estimate just one year ago, a growth rate of 2 percent. "The nearly half-million new Texas residents is far more than any other state," says Dr. Larry Lyon, center director and professor of sociology. "That is phenomenal growth in just one year."

Dr. Charles M. Tolbert, a researcher with the center and professor of sociology, notes that the growth rate may be misleading. "Texas' 2 percent growth rate is third highest among the states, but our base population is much larger than other fast-growing states. The result is that we added substantially more people in our state population, putting us at the top in population increase during the year." Second to Texas is California, which added 379,132 people in the time period, 104,410 fewer than Texas.

Dr. Carson Mencken, center researcher and professor of sociology, emphasizes the potential consequences such growth could create during a time when the economy is struggling. "One has to wonder if any state could be prepared for growth of this sort," Mencken says. "This will test our infrastructure at a time when it will be difficult to add needed capacity such as highways, utilities, and schools."

Dr. Robyn Driskell, center researcher and associate professor of sociology, observes the consistency in robust Texas population numbers over time. "While these new figures are estimates and not complete counts, they follow a longstanding trend of rapid growth," she says. "These data need to be taken seriously."

While Texas topped the list of states with numeric gains in population, Utah ranks as the fastest-growing state during the year. The only two states to lose population are Michigan and Rhode Island. The full Census Bureau report can be accessed here.

About Baylor University's Center for Community Research and Development

The Center for Community Research and Development was established at Baylor University in 1979 as a multidisciplinary entity with a mission of engaging Baylor faculty and students in applied social research to improve the quality of life in the local community. Over time, the center has broadened its focus to include statewide and national research. The center also has become closely linked to Baylor's doctoral program in applied sociology, whose students serve as center research analysts. For further information, visit the center's web site or contact the center at 254-710-3811 or

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