Monday, March 20, 2006

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:

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.

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.

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.


At 7:59 PM, March 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice dig on Austin there. Interesting how all the geezers love to live it up in Smogsville as long as its cheap and taxes are low but fail to realize that young people are willing to pay a little more for a higher quality of life.

Hence, Austin is the most popular place for the educated young to locate through in TX, and Dallas is 2nd. Houston and San Antonio are in the bottom 5 nationally in educated 18-34 years. So much for low taxes attracting top young talent.

At 8:22 PM, March 20, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Quality of life is in the eye of the beholder, and families tend to see it differently from 20-something singles. Austin certainly has the perfect quality of life targeted at white, college-educated, liberal Democrat, young, single UT alums - but it doesn't offer much to most other demographics (unlike Houston, which offers "quality of life" to a much, much broader array of demographics).

Houston attracts a lot of uneducated people seeking opportunity, and we are accommodating (unlike Dallas or Austin), which hits our "% with a college degree" stats negatively. But I'll guarantee that the city of Houston has more sheer numbers of college-degreed young people than either the cities of Austin or Dallas. Which is more important to you: sheer numbers of educated young people to meet and support local life/culture, or high percentages, so you don't have to mix with "those less desirable types"?

At 8:22 PM, March 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not according to the US Census.

The Census Bureau has Houston and Dallas virtually identical. The interesting part is that in absolute numbers, there are actually TWICE as many residents with bachelor's degrees in Houston as in Austin.

Imagine that.

At 8:43 PM, March 20, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

And, since the city of Dallas has a little more half the population of the city of Houston, and we're about equal on a percentage basis, that means we have almost twice as many college grads as Dallas.

Also note that we are ahead of LA and Chicago, and only 1% behind NY.

Thanks for the stats link.

At 10:58 PM, March 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, according to an article posted on your own blog called "The Young and Restless in a Knowledge Economy" has a net loss of 17% of 18-34 college educated adults relative to the population. Dallas doesnt fare much better, but my point was regarding Austin mainly anyway.

At 8:24 AM, March 21, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

It's not a "net loss" - it's "underattainment" - which means that we have a lot of young people not going to college - something you would expect in a town with a large immigrant population, although something that could certainly use improving (as HISD is trying to do now with their new college-prep orientation at all levels).

Thanks for reminding me of that post, by the way. I knew it was out there, but I couldn't find it. If you reread it, it makes similar points to what I'm making here in the comments:

At 7:34 AM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


DFW is an interesting MSA because folks in Dallas don't like to even acknowledge that Ft. Worth exists. Houston obviously scores better on the mythical "unified identity" scale.

At 7:58 AM, March 22, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Exactly! There are a lot of multi-polar major cities like DFW: DC-VA-MD-Baltimore, SF-Oakland-San Jose, LA-OC-SB-Riverside, Miami-Ft.L-PB, Raleigh-Durham, and Minneapolis-St.Paul. Sometimes the census splits them, and sometimes it doesn't, but there is definitely a character and identity difference between a multi-polar and unipolar metros like Houston, NY, or Chicago.


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