Texas Metro Areas Continue to Grow: Baylor Analysts Find Shifts In Patterns, Factors Affecting Urban Population Growth

March 20, 2009

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

A Baylor University analysis of the latest Census Bureau data on population estimates for the nation's metropolitan statistical areas and counties clearly shows that Texas is growing, with the majority of that expansion centered in major metropolitan areas. However, the Baylor analysts found significant shifts in the patterns of the state's urban population growth and the factors that contribute to the increase.

State population estimates released by the Census Bureau in December show that Texas added nearly half a million persons from July 2007 to July 2008.

"We knew there were a lot of new people here, but we are just finding out where they settled. And, the data are very interesting," said Dr. Charles Tolbert, a sociologist and population analyst at Baylor's Center for Community Research and Development. "Most of the population growth in from 2007 to 2008 was centered in larger metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)."

However, Baylor population analysts discovered that the growth hot spots within large urban areas are changing.

Growing in one year by 3.8 percent, the Austin MSA showed the second largest percentage increase nationally. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission MSA was the second fastest-growing area in Texas at 3 percent and the 14th fastest growing metro area in the country. Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston each experienced growth in the 2 percent range.

"For those million-plus areas to grow year over year by 2 percent basically means that they accounted for half of the state's population growth between 2007 and 2008," said Dr. Robyn Driskell, research director of CCRD and an associate professor of sociology at Baylor.

But metropolitan area growth is not the only trend, said Dr. Carson Mencken, a Baylor sociologist and research professor at the CCRD. "Within the large MSAs, we are beginning to see shifts in growth patterns."

In the case of the Austin MSA, outlying Williamson County has become one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States. Home to Georgetown and Round Rock, Williamson County had nearly 400,000 residents by July of 2008, an increase of 150,000 from Census figures in 2000.

"Austin is sprawling north through Williamson County," said Dr. Larry Lyon, professor of sociology at Baylor and director of the CCRD. "There will soon be very little countryside between Williamson and the Killeen-Temple area in Bell County. The Interstate 35 corridor is filling in quickly."

The source of Williamson County's growth intrigued Tolbert.

"The new estimates show growth in that area is being driven by strong domestic in-migration. Folks from other parts of Texas and the United States clearly want to move into Williamson. In absolute terms, there were more domestic in-migrants in Williamson (18,052) than in Travis County (16,522). This is further evidence of a shift northward in the Austin region's center of gravity," Tolbert said.

Another important trend is a decline in international migration, which has been a major source of Texas population growth.

"Even in the rapidly growing Texas metro areas, international migration is less of a factor than it has been. This is most likely a consequence of the economic downturn," Mencken said.

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

Looking for more news from Baylor University?