Keeping a Strong Texas Economy

 Keeping a Strong Texas Economy


By Lloyd Potter, Ph.D.

Almost everyone in Texas knows the population has been growing. Texas currently has a population of more than 27 million, and while California is larger, no state grew more than Texas during 2013. Generally, most think the source of Texas’ population growth is people moving to Texas. Yet the population growth in Texas is split fairly evenly between net migration (in migration minus out migration) and natural increase (births minus deaths). Every day in 2013, Texas added about 1,200 people with 47 percent these new people being babies (nearly 560 per day), and the remaining 53 percent were people who had moved to Texas, about 640 per day.

Impact of Net Migration & Relocating to Texas

The fact that about half of Texas’ population change is from natural increase and about half is from net migration provides some insight into the impact of population change. Growth from net migration means that new households are being added. The new households require new housing that creates new demand for water and power and the new households probably have one or more cars that will instantly be on the roads. Additionally, growth from migration is associated with job growth, so there is more commercial demand on the infrastructure occurring simultaneously. On the other hand, growth from natural increase does not create a new household, it grows existing households, and the associated infrastructure demands are different and, in the short term, substantially less.

The dynamics of population growth are not the same everywhere in the state. In many of the rural areas, the population is declining as a function of net out migration and in some, natural decline with more deaths than births. When looking at the urban core counties, a larger percent of their population change tends to be from natural increase. Between 2013 and 2014, Harris County added more people than any other county in the country. Forty-nine percent of that growth was from natural increase and the balance (51 percent) was from migration. Almost 70 percent of Dallas County’s population change was from natural increase. Yet when we look at suburban ring counties, the bulk of population change that is occurring is from net migration. Hays County (just south of Austin) was the fifth fastest growing county in the country between 2013 and 2014. In that year, 84 percent of Hays County population change was from net migration. Comal County, just north of San Antonio, was the ninth fastest growing county and 90 percent of the population change was from net migration. Fort Bend County, southwest of Houston, was ranked 11th in the country for numeric growth and sixth for rate of increase with 81 percent of this growth being from net migration. Therefore, while the urban core counties are growing substantially, the type of growth is different from the growth occurring in suburban ring counties.

Two Scenarios – The Population by 2050

The size and composition of Texas’ population past, present, and future, is the result of natural increase and migration. The Office of the State Demographer produces population projections for the State and its counties incorporating different assumptions about future migration. If Texas were to experience migration patterns similar to last decade (2000-2010), the population would double by 2050. However, it is important to realize the assumption that net migration to Texas will continue as it did in the last decade may not be realistic. So population projections are also produced using a second, more conservative migration scenario of one-half of the migration experienced between 2000 and 2010. Under this scenario, by 2050, Texas will still grow substantially (by 60 percent), but would not double. If there was no net migration, Texas would grow just from net births alone by 24 percent by 2050.

Economic Growth With a Younger Population

When we look historically and into the future, we can see that the age structure of Texas’ population has been influenced and will continue to be influenced, in a positive way, by net in migration. Prior to 1970, very little of the population change in Texas was from net migration. During the decade of 1970-80, all of sudden, over half of Texas’ population change was from migration and since then, roughly half of the change has been occurring from migration. If migration patterns stayed as they were prior to 1970, the age structure of Texas would be old. We would have a high percentage of the population in older ages compared to those in labor force ages and children. Old age structures are generally associated with economic decline because there are not enough young people ageing into the labor force to fill the jobs being created by a growing economy. At the same time, older workers are aging out of the labor force, creating even more demand for workers. Essentially, the size of the labor force would be declining or growing very slowly in Texas if it were not for our healthy net in migration. It is because Texas has been experiencing net in migration, the size of the labor force has continued to grow to fill jobs being created in a growing economy. Most people who move within and to the United States are doing so to take or seek a job in their new location. Many of these people are new or recent entrants into the labor force or are toward the younger end of their career. Thus, many migrants are also in the family formation stage of life and either bring children with them or will have children at some point after they move. Thus, in addition to contributing to Texas’ population growth by moving, many in-migrants will also contribute to the natural increase component of population growth after arriving. In this way, migrants have contributed substantially to ensuring that Texas has a growing labor force to meet the demands of our growing economy.

Increasing Diversity

The population of Texas has been becoming more diverse in terms of race and ethnicity as a function of net in migration and as a result of births to families that have moved to Texas. Migrants from other states represent diverse racial and ethnic population and migrants from other countries to Texas are largely from Central and South America with an increasing percent of immigrants being from Asian countries. The minority group that is driving population growth in Texas are persons of Hispanic descent. The population of non-Hispanic white persons in Texas will eventually decline as the baby-boom aged population ages into retirement and then start to die. Non-Hispanic white cohorts younger that the baby-boom aged generation are smaller and smaller as a function of below replacement fertility among non-Hispanic and limited net in migration of non-Hispanic whites. At the same time younger and younger cohorts of persons of Hispanic descent become larger and larger as a function of fertility that has been a bit higher than replacement and the net in migration of Hispanics. The net result is that there are more children of Hispanic descent in Texas’ public schools than any other race/ethnic group and the Texas’ labor force is increasingly made up of persons of Hispanic descent. Eventually, Hispanics will be a majority group among those in the labor force in Texas. Therefore, it is essential that Texas focus on improving educational outcomes for young Hispanics as they are a group with traditionally limited levels of educational attainment. Texas needs to continue to grow a healthy and well-educated labor force to maintain and continue to grow its health economy.

Lloyd Potter holds a Ph.D. in Demography and Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Public Health Degree from Emory University, a Master of Science in Education from the University of Houston at Clear Lake and a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University. He is a professor of Demography at The University of Texas at San Antonio where he serves as the director of the Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research. Dr. Potter was named State Demographer by Governor Perry in 2010.




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