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June 2008

The Demographic Advantage

A young, growing population

Texas Labor
Force Booming

The Texas labor force is growing and attracting workers from all over the nation, says Karl Eschbach, the Texas state demographer. “They’re coming here for jobs and affordable living,” he says.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas labor force experienced the largest net growth of any state between 2000 and 2006, adding more than 1.1 million jobs and accounting for nearly 13 percent of the nation’s total net increase in workers over that period.

Furthermore, Texas’ expanding economy, including its growing tech sector, is attracting high-caliber employees. “Texas is among the most popular destinations for college-educated workers who relocate between states,” Eschbach says.

According to Eschbach, net migration from other states added more than 42,000 college-educated workers to the Texas labor force in 2006. Texas ranked second only to California by this measure, and well ahead of California when the new arrivals are considered as a share of the total work force.

by Bruce Wright

Texas is blessed with a stable economy, abundant natural resources and some of the nation’s best infrastructure. But its biggest asset may be its dynamic and growing population.

Our state is growing quickly and changing as it grows.

Growth and change present the state with both challenges and opportunities, but in all it serves as a solid guarantee of continuing economic expansion.

A State on the Grow

Today, with 23.9 million residents, Texas is the second most-populous state, behind only California. And our growth is outstripping the nation’s as a whole by a substantial amount.

Between 2000 and 2007, Texas’ population grew at more than double the national rate – 14.6 percent versus 7.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Five of the 10 U.S. counties registering the highest numerical population growth between 2006 and 2007 are in Texas, as are 11 of the top 25 counties. No other state came close to Texas’ performance.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area led all other U.S. metro areas in its numerical population gain between 2006 and 2007, adding more than 162,000 residents. The Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Austin-Round Rock and San Antonio metro areas also were in the top 10 for numerical growth.

City Life, Country Living

Texas has the peculiar distinction of both being one of the nation’s most urbanized states and also having the country’s largest rural population.

According to the state’s Office of Rural Community Affairs, about 86 percent of all Texans lived in urban areas in 2005 (most recent data available). Yet the 2000 U.S. Census indicated that Texas had more than 3.6 million rural residents, well above second-ranked North Carolina’s 3.2 million.

But our rural and urban areas are not growing at the same rate. The state’s rural population rose by 15 percent between 1990 and 2005, yet Texas as a whole grew by 35 percent over the same period. Rapid growth in urban areas meant that rural Texas’ share of the state population fell from 18.8 percent in 1990 to 17.5 percent in 2000.

Between 2000 and 2005, 11 of Texas’ metro counties – those with one or more urban areas – saw population increases of at least 20 percent, while 93 non-metro counties experienced losses. Thus, Texas’ metropolitan areas were far more likely to grow than their rural counterparts.

The continuing shift of Texas’ population from rural to urban areas poses problems as well as benefits. As rural Texans move to cities and suburbs, a shrinking tax base can cause financial difficulties for the communities left behind. In urban areas, rapid growth has prompted a need for new roads, additional construction and expanded water and sewer systems.

Nevertheless, the urban boom has also spurred tremendous economic growth and diversification. And our cities’ growth ultimately spreads beyond the suburbs, into “exurbs,” bringing greater prosperity to formerly rural areas.

Bexar, Collin, Harris, Tarrant and Travis Counties are 5 of the 10 fastest growing counties in the nation.

Texas: National Growth Leader

Five of the 10 U.S. counties experiencing the most growth between 2006 and 2007 are in Texas.

County, StateEstimated Population
July 1, 2007
Estimated Population
July 1, 2006
2006 to 2007
Maricopa County, AZ3,880,1813,778,598101,583
Riverside County, CA2,073,5712,007,20666,365
Harris County, TX3,935,8553,876,30659,549
Clark County, NV1,836,3331,777,16859,165
Tarrant County, TX1,717,4351,668,54148,894
Bexar County, TX1,594,4931,555,19239,301
Wake County, NC832,970794,12938,841
Collin County, TX730,690696,38334,307
Travis County, TX974,365941,57732,788
Mecklenburg County, NC867,067835,32831,739

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Younger, but Older

Texas benefits from relative youth among states, a factor that implies a younger, more adaptable work force. According to the Census Bureau, the median age of the Texas population was 33.1 years in 2006, versus 36.4 years for the nation as a whole. Texas had the youngest median population by far among the 10 most populous states.

In 2006, Texas also had a larger-than-average population share in the crucial employment years of 20 through 39, 29.3 percent versus 27.4 percent nationwide.

Texas is experiencing the same aging trends as the rest of the nation, as the enormous postwar generation heads into retirement. The Census Bureau estimates that more than 2.3 million Texans were aged 65 or older in 2006, accounting for 9.9 percent of the state’s population. That share is expected to rise to 11.7 percent of the total by 2015.

Even so, Texas’ relative youth will continue. The comparable U.S. estimates for the 65-and-over population share are 12.4 percent in 2006 and 14.5 percent in 2015.

Texas Tapestry

Texas is among the nation’s most ethnically diverse states and has been a majority-minority state since 2004, meaning the state’s various ethnic minority populations now outnumber white residents. (Other majority-minority states include Hawaii, New Mexico and California.)

In 2006, 48.3 percent of Texans were White; 35.7 percent were Hispanic; 11.4 percent were Black; and 4.6 percent fell into the “other” category, which includes persons of American Indian, Asian and other descent. Texas’ ethnic makeup contrasts strongly with the U.S. as a whole, which was 66.4 percent white, 14.8 percent Hispanic, 12.3 percent black and 6.6 percent “other” in 2006.

Hispanics are Texas’ fastest-growing population group, due to high immigration and birth rates; their numbers rose by 24.4 percent between 2000 and 2006. The Texas State Data Center estimates that by the year 2040, Hispanics will constitute from 44.7 percent to 59.2 percent of the Texas population, depending upon various assumptions concerning birth rates, mortality and migration.

By contrast, the data center projects that Whites will constitute from 41.1 percent to as little as 23.9 percent of the Texas population by 2040. The Black population share, in turn, is expected to range from 8 to 10.7 percent of the state’s population.

These changes will entail some challenges for Texas. In education, for instance, high immigration rates will push up the state’s share of students identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP), a group already representing 16 percent of all children enrolled in Texas public schools in the 2006-07 school year.

But a multiracial population also confers real advantages in global trade (see sidebar). For instance, nearly twice as many Texans are fully bilingual as the national average. FN

For more information on Texas demography, visit the Comptroller’s new Texas Ahead Web site, Detailed demographic information for Texas counties is available through the Comptroller’s Texas EDGE site at

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