After having the nation's largest annual gain in residents for eight years, Harris County in 2016 was unseated by Arizona’s Maricopa County and lost thousands of residents to other parts of the country, new census figures show.
And though it still experienced overall growth because of expanding families and international immigration, Harris County’s loss of residents to other areas depicts an ongoing reality in Texas where the suburbs continue to lead in population growth largely because of domestic migration.
Like last year, Texas gained almost a half-million new residents and neared the 27.9 million mark, according to population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. But the estimates, which track population increases from July 2015 to July 2016, show that the most rapid growth and some of the biggest gains in residents were both largely clustered in suburban areas.
That ongoing trend of explosive suburban growth is largely dependent on suburban counties gaining residents from other areas of the state and the country. Meanwhile, growth in urban counties that are home to the state’s largest cities is more dependent on international migrants and residents having more children.
Harris County’s loss of residents to other areas in 2016 — a loss of about 44 people a day — is likely evidence of the downturn in oil prices, but the differences in population growth between urban and suburban counties come with significant implications for the racial and socioeconomic composition of those areas, said state demographer Lloyd Potter.
“You have an increasingly cosmopolitan urban core, meaning immigrants and minorities,” Potter said. “And then in suburban ring counties, even though they’re diverse, their diversity is much more weighted toward non-Hispanic whites.”
The Census estimates once again put a handful of Texas counties and metropolitan areas among the country's fastest-growing last year.
With a 5.2 percent increase in population, Kendall County ranked as the nation’s second-fastest-growing county among those with a population greater than 10,000. Home to San Antonio suburbs, Kendall also surpassed Hays County as the state's fastest-growing county.
Hays — along with Comal County on the Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio — still experienced rapid growth, and both counties also ranked among the nation's fastest-growing counties. Hays, which grew 5.1 percent last year, ranked second. Comal, which grew 4.4 percent, ranked sixth.
Those suburban counties are also among those that have experienced the most explosive growth in the past few years, gaining a significant portion of their population since 2010. And unless the Texas economy takes a dive, that growth — and its pressure on housing and other resources — is likely to continue.
The Austin-Round Rock metro area was among the fastest-growing in the country with a 2.9 percent increase in its population. Adding more than 58,000 residents, the Austin-Round Rock metro area, with its 2.06 million population, ranked as the ninth-fastest-growing metro in the country and the fastest growing in Texas.
Meanwhile, the Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro areas saw the largest gains in residents in the country between 2015 and 2016. Both of their populations increased by more than 100,000 people.
Read our related coverage:
- Though it's teetered between Democrats and Republicans at the top of the ticket in recent elections, the state's largest county went decidedly blue in the 2016 election.
- Experts and pundits predicted that Hispanics would vote in record numbers to express their displeasure with Donald Trump. In Texas, it doesn't look like that happened.