We're #3?!

Houston is a lot of things. And among whatever adjectives you’re thinking of right now, you have to add the word, “competitive.” So when the latest 2018 Census Bureau Population Estimates come out, we always keep an eye on where we rank on the “fastest growing cities and counties” lists, especially if it means we rank above Dallas.

Sorry Houston, but we’re #3. Yep, and Dallas is above us.

What do I mean? I’m glad you asked! Because for all you preachers out there, here come statistics for sermon illustrations.

Houston MSA

Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area

Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area

First, some basic geography. The “greater Houston area” is usually shorthand for the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)—a nine-county area that includes Harris County, the seven counties that touch Harris, and Austin County. The approximately 8,266 square miles of the MSA makes us bigger than 6 states (MA, NJ, HI, CT, DE, RI).

According to the most recent data, the Houston MSA has 6,997,384 people, putting it #5 on the list of largest metro areas behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas.

Over the last year, the Houston MSA added 91,689 to our population. Only two other “metros” added more people: Dallas (131,767) and Phoenix (96,268). But let’s be honest about Dallas—they cheat because their metro includes Fort Worth, a pretty large city in its own right.

The Houston and Dallas metros have another thing in common: they’re the only two metro areas to grow by more than a million people since 2010, but again, Dallas led Houston. For you history buffs, the Houston MSA grew by 1.2 million people from 2000 to 2010, and we’ve already added another 1.07 million in this decade.

Put another way, the greater Houston area added more than 1,750 people a week last year.

The greater Houston area added more than 1,750 people a week last year.

Harris County

But there are two other places in the most recent lists that Houston shows up as #3. This time, as Harris County.

Harris County is almost 1,800 square miles, making it bigger than Rhode Island and only about 200 square miles smaller than Delaware. We like things big in Texas, right? By comparison, Atlanta’s MSA is a similar size by square mileage but has 29 counties.

With a population of 4,698,619, Harris County is the third most populated county in the country (behind Los Angeles County and Cook County in Chicago, respectively). With an increase of 34,460, it also added the third most number of people last year—behind Maricopa County AZ (Phoenix) and Clark County NV (Las Vegas). This time, we did come above anything in Dallas, but just barely: Collin County, just north of Dallas, was #4 with 33,753.

Harris County growth has slowed in the last couple of years, being right around 34,000 in each of the last two years. Before 2016, Harris County has added at least 67,000 people each year since 2010, and in a couple of those years, we added more than 100,000.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Surrounding Counties

Montgomery and Fort Bend counties are also growing considerably, helping to boost the MSA’s overall growth. Fort Bend County made a list of its own: #10 for Top 10 Counties in Percentage Growth from 2010 to 2018 at 34.7%.

That’s amazing for two reasons. First, all the counties on that list are numerically much smaller than Fort Bend, the next one on the list has less than half the number of people. Second, Fort Bend County is incredibly diverse (21% Black, 20% Asian, 25% Hispanic, 33% Anglo) and growth is happening in every racial group.

Again, put another way, if greater Houston added 1,750 people a week last year, only about a third went to Harris County. About 20% went to Montgomery and Fort Bend counties respectively. Brazoria County got 10%, and the rest were spread pretty evenly around the rest of the counties.

Among the Top

If you’ve hung in this long, kudos! And as your reward, here is a list of things that Houston in some form is #1. But fair warning, we don’t always want to be at the top of the list.

  • Harris County, Most Numerical Growth from 2010-2018 (605,431). If you put Tarrant County (#6) and Dallas County (#8) together, we still take them by 60,000 people.

  • Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. according to WalletHub, a personal finance website, and their analysis of five diversity indices.

  • Harris County has the highest number of sexually transmitted disease cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

  • Houston has the highest number of human trafficking victims nation-wide.

  • Houston has the largest medical center in the world and the nation’s best cancer clinic: MD Anderson.

Houston gets ranked in all sorts of lists. Just Google “Houston is ranked highest,” and thank me later. We even got ranked #3 for Most Humid City behind New Orleans and Jacksonville, and #3 for family-friendliness (and yes, Dallas was #1).

Just for Fun

In 2010, a study measuring factors such as heat index, traffic congestion, and household pests (mosquitoes!) ranked Houston #2 Most Irritation Prone City (behind Atlanta).

I hope you’re not irritated that you read this whole article.

#Better together.