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Austin area surprisingly outranked on report of most popular places for new Texans

Austin area outranked on report of most popular places for new Texans

Austin Texas State Capitol aerial
Travis County ranked fifth for new out-of-state arrivals. dszc/Getty Images

Austin's population is booming, but a new report shows that, at the county level, other parts of Texas are attracting more newcomers from out of state. 

According to a data analysis released December 9 by StorageCafé, Travis County ranked fifth for most relocations from different states in 2017. The StorageCafé data shows 33,939 people relocated to Travis County from outside of Texas in 2017. At No. 10 on the list was Williamson County with 15,712 out-of-state newcomers. 

StorageCafé, a self-storage marketplace, based its analysis on data published last year by the U.S. Census Bureau. The analysis excludes new arrivals from other Texas counties and new arrivals from outside the U.S.

Combined, Travis and Williamson counties gained close to 50,000 out-of-staters in 2017. By comparison, Pflugerville was home to 59,245 residents in 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

The most popular destination for new Texans was Houston's Harris County, which welcomed 81,781 out-of-staters in 2017, more than any other county in Texas. That influx stands to reason, since Harris County is the state’s largest county as measured by population (more than 4 million and counting). Still, it’s astounding the county attracted almost as many new arrivals as the entire population of Conroe (87,654 in 2018).

Although the StorageCafé analysis indicates a Texas-leading population spike, Bill Fulton, director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, notes that Harris County has experienced an overall decline in population growth since 2015.

“This is not surprising given the drop in oil prices, which led to economic stagnation in Houston,” Fulton tells CultureMap.

Fulton points out that Harris County’s population gains don’t match the combined growth of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s two biggest counties. “Don’t be deceived into thinking that because Harris County has a much greater population increase than any other county, that, therefore, metro Houston is growing a lot faster than DFW,” Fulton says. “If you add the Dallas and Tarrant numbers together, it clearly shows that DFW is still attracting more [newcomers] than Houston.”

Indeed, grabbing second place in the StorageCafé ranking was Dallas County, with 47,336 new out-of-state arrivals in 2017. And in the No. 3 spot, next-door Tarrant County picked up 44,181 new arrivals. That means Dallas and Tarrant counties drew more than 91,500 new out-of-state residents in 2017, beating the total for Harris County. In total, Dallas County has about 2.6 million residents, while Tarrant County (Fort Worth) has a little over 2 million. 

“The bottom line is: For the past several years, DFW has been growing faster than Houston, and that growth has been driven by [more newcomers] from other states,” Fulton adds.

Two other DFW counties, Collin and Denton, ranked sixth and seventh, respectively, in StorageCafé’s list of the top 10 Texas counties. Collin County saw 24,918 new out-of-state arrivals in 2017, with Denton County at 22,190.

All told, the four DFW counties in Texas’ top 10 absorbed 138,625 new out-of-state residents in 2017. By comparison, 138,541 people lived in Denton in 2018, the Census Bureau says.

From 2010 to 2018, Dallas-Fort Worth added more residents — over 1.11 million, or a growth rate of 17.3 percent — than any other major metro area in the country, according to the Census Bureau. In terms of the sheer number of new residents, DFW eclipsed Houston during that period, but Houston held a slight edge for percentage growth.

Bexar County, which anchors the San Antonio metro area, claimed the No. 4 spot in the StorageCafé ranking, attracting 41,062 out-of-state newcomers in 2017.

Others in the top 10 were El Paso County at No. 8 and Bell County (home of Killeen and Temple) at No. 9.