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430,000 new Texans in one year

Profile image for By Jill Cowan
By Jill Cowan

Country’s biggest jump brings state population to nearly 28 million

DALLAS — Over the last year, Texas added 432,957 residents, pushing the state’s population to almost 28 million, U.S. Census Bureau data released this week shows.

That amounts to about 1,183 new Texans each day and the biggest population jump of any state in the country.

Florida was next, adding 367,525 residents from July 2015 to July 2016, followed by California, which added 256,077 people.

None of that is likely to surprise Texans, who have been hearing about the state’s skyrocketing population for years — not to mention seeing it in cranes dotting city skylines and the seemingly endless sprawl of neighborhoods sprouting on what was recently wide-open land.

Steve Murdock, a former head of the census and now director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas, said the state has topped population growth lists since about the turn of the millennium — and he doesn’t expect that to change just yet.

“Nothing will last forever, but the best guess for tomorrow is what happens today,” he said. “And the best guess, after the last 16 years or so, is that Texas will probably lead population growth again next year.”

As of the 2000 census, Texas’ population was 21 million, about seven times the current population of Utah, the year’s fastest-growing state by percentage. Utah’s population crossed the 3 million threshold for the first time.

Although Murdock said he can’t predict how long Texas can keep up its breakneck growth — if he did, he joked, “I’d be a lot richer man than I am” — the state has three factors going for it.

Domestic migration

The first is that the state, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in particular, which includes Denton County, has attracted a lot of residents from other states in what demographers call domestic migration.

That’s a phenomenon North Texans know well, as regional officials make luring corporate relocations from elsewhere in the U.S. a top priority.

Second, Texas is a major destination for immigrants. That’s in large part because it’s a border state, but also because Texas’ economy has been a draw for investment from around the world.

Immigration feeds into what Murdock described as Texas’ third pillar of growth: natural increase — or what happens when more people are born than die.

Because Texas is more diverse than most states, residents tend to be younger than in other states because of a large Latino population.

That means they’re more likely to have kids.

Meanwhile, Murdock said, America’s white, non-Hispanic population has been aging and shrinking for years.

“Non-Hispanic whites have been below replacement levels for 25 years, and we’re not coming back,” he said.

Compare that with California, whose growth is mostly driven by immigration from other countries. Demographers have reported that the Golden State is losing residents to the rest of the U.S.

And Texas is its biggest poacher.

Meanwhile, other large states that don’t see as many immigrants as California — including Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois — lost population over the last year. Of those three, Illinois lost the most: 37,508 residents.

“Our diversity is a plus factor in our growth, and certainly the attractiveness of our state,” Murdock said.

Diversity’s payoff

Experts have said an upward spiral of sorts is driving Texas’ population growth.

The state’s economy, like its residents, is more diverse than in the past. So major economic events in one industry, like the recent oil bust, don’t drag down everything else.

“We’re centered in some of the industries that are critical to the operation of any modern economy,” Murdock said. “Our oil and gas factors are certainly playing a role, but we’re growing as well in the tech industry.”

As a result, the state has added jobs and its economy still booms.

Those jobs have drawn relocating workers by the thousands — particularly from states like California, with notoriously high costs of living.

Jobs beget jobs

Then those new residents move into the state’s fast-developing suburbs, spend money, send their kids to school and help the economy expand even more.

All of which makes Texas a good place for companies to move even more jobs.

Without a growing population, some companies couldn’t hire the workers they need.

Basically, Murdock said, it’s all good news for Texas.

“The thing to understand is that there are many factors in growth — and some of it is criticized as growth we didn’t want,” he said. “But the reality of it is we’re growing and we’re prospering.”

The nation’s population overall grew 0.7 percent to 323.1 million.