Our last year as the nation's third largest county?The US Census Bureau recently released new county population estimates, covered by Chronicle articles here and here. Suburban counties continue to grow the fastest. Rad - although a little jaded about Harris County's relentless growth - has a couple good analysis points:
13 of the 100 fastest growing counties from 2000 to 2005 are in Texas, including Ft. Bend at 23 and Montgomery at 27. Williamson County, home of Dell, is number 16 as the beautiful hill-country alternative to the People's Republic of Austin/Travis County.
Estimates released last week show that, as of July 1, 2005, Harris County is thought to have gained 292,000 people since the 2000 Census, a numerical growth ranking fifth behind Maricopa County, Ariz. (Phoenix), Los Angeles and Riverside counties in the Los Angeles metro area, and Clark County, Nev. (Las Vegas).
California and Texas dominated the top 10 with seven counties between them. The others in California were San Bernardino (6th) and Orange (10th), while Texas was represented by Tarrant (Fort Worth) at 7th and Collin (near Dallas) at 8th.
The Census press release lays out a lot of interesting stats, including a list of the four largest counties:
Los Angeles, Calif., continued to be the most populous county in the nation, with 9.9 million residents on July 1, 2005, followed by Cook, Ill. (5.3 million - Chicago); Harris, Texas (3.7 million); and Maricopa, Ariz. (3.6 million - Phoenix).LA should cross the staggering 10 million mark next year. Notice how close those last two counties are? Maricopa is moving up fast on Harris, and it looks like they might pass us as the third largest county in the next year or two. Over the last 5 years, they have added about twice as many people per year as we have: 112K vs. 58K. Maricopa also benefits from the fact that Arizona has absolutely gigantic counties landwise: it has 9,224 sq. miles vs. 1,778 sq. miles in Harris County, so they're more than five times our size - and currently building housing to accommodate everyone in California that wants to cash out of their overvalued house, including a tremendous wave of retiring baby boomers. Katrina evacuees might keep us in third for an extra year or two, but the eventual passing seems inevitable.
For what it's worth, then our national county and city rankings will match: 4th largest. Our metro ranking is still 7th, and we're likely to pass Miami and Philly in the next few years to make 5th, but catching DFW to make 4th behind NY, LA, and Chicago doesn't seem to be in the cards anytime soon, since DFW is growing slightly numerically faster than us.