City of Houston population growth slowingCensus just released new estimates for 2004, with Houston numbers in this table. (AP Story) After pretty healthy gains of 18,000 in 2001 and 23,000 in 2002, we've dropped to +7,000 in 2003 and a mere +3,000 in 2004 (for a total of 2,012,626). Now, keep in mind, this is the city limits of Houston, not the metro area, which is still seeing very healthy gains.
Possible theories? Maybe tighter border controls after 9/11? I understand there is still plenty of illegal immigration going on, but it may have slowed down somewhat.
Another possibility: lower interest rates have created a lot of first-time home buyers the last few years, which probably means moving from an apartment inside the city to a starter home outside of it. We may actually have the same annual numbers of new people coming into the city, they're just being offset by those leaving for their new home. This theory seems more likely than the first.
We're middle of the pack vs. other cities in our top-10 "weight class": NY, Chicago, and Philly all lost population - and LA, Phoenix, and San Antonio are still packing them in. We're pretty comfortably entrenched at #4 - no near-term chances of moving up or down. Poor Detroit got displaced out of the top-10 by San Jose, CA - which most people don't realize is 20% larger than San Francisco. Only metro area I can think of where the suburb-city outweighs the core "big name" city.
Houston was outgained in Texas by Dallas, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, and even little Austin (which is growing again after 3 stagnant years). Ft. Worth and San Antonio are in the top 5 nationally for numerical gains (along with Phoenix, LA, and Vegas).
The biggest losers in the top 25? Chicago, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, Baltimore, Philly, and NYC - in that order. Like the headline says, everybody's headed south and west for sun, space, and nice new affordable homes.