Houston region saw second-largest population surge in U.S. in 2021-2022, census analysis finds | Fort Bend Economic Development Council

The Houston region saw the second-largest population spike among major metros in the U.S. between the summers of 2021 and 2022, trailing only the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to an analysis of census data released earlier this month by the Greater Houston Partnership.

A net increase of nearly 295,000 residents in Texas' two largest metropolitan areas contributed to the state leading the nation in population growth in 2022, when Texas gained a total of 470,708 residents while states such as California, Illinois and New York saw declines in population.

The Houston area, defined as a nine-county region that includes suburbs such as Sugar Land and The Woodlands, had a population gain of about 124,300 between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, according to the analysis by the Greater Houston Partnership, which is an economic development organization. The year-to-year increase was the region's most significant since 2016 and represented a rebound from relatively slow growth during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Houston area seeing below-average gains of about 75,000 residents during each of the previous two years.

The analysis attributed two-thirds of Houston's most recent population growth to net immigration – with the region seeing more than 85,000 people move in from other parts of the country and world – and one-third to the number of births outpacing the number of deaths by a margin of nearly 40,000.

"The surge in population helps to explain last year's robust job growth, strong demand for housing, and increased congestion on the region's roads and freeways," the Greater Houston Partnership wrote in its analysis. "Houston added 176,000 jobs, closed on 108,000 single-family homes, absorbed 21,000 apartment units, and delivered 280,000 new vehicles (during the one-year period)."

The increase from 2021 to 2022 bumped the Houston area's population to more than 7.34 million, leaving it as the fifth-largest metro in the U.S. behind New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. The latter had the largest year-to-year spike, with a gain of more than 170,000 residents, while New York, L.A. and Chicago each saw population decreases of at least 77,000.

Among the 20 largest metros in the U.S., only the Houston and Dallas areas experienced population increases of 80,000 or more between 2021 and 2022. The Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia and San Francisco areas were among those that saw population decreases, according to the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

"Houston performed exceptionally well last year considering nine of the nation's 20 largest metros shed population and five added fewer than 20,000 residents," the analysis said. "At current growth rates, the rankings of the 10 most populous metros are unlikely to shift anytime soon."

The largest counties in Greater Houston – Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery – each saw population spikes of at least 28,000 from 2021 to 2022. The increases in Fort Bend and Montgomery counties are mostly attributed to net migration, with each county having more than 24,000 move-ins from other parts of the region, state, country or world.

The majority of those relocations in Fort Bend and Montgomery counties were domestic, the analysis found, while Harris County saw an influx of more than 37,000 people from other parts of the world. The number of births in Harris County, the most populous in the region, exceeded the number of deaths by a margin of more than 30,000.

Houston ranked third in the country in net natural increase – the number of births compared to deaths – third in international immigration and second in overall immigration. Nearly a quarter of the region's population is foreign-born, and that group accounts for 30.7 percent of the workforce in metro Houston.

"The flow of foreign-born residents and workers into the region remains essential for the region's growth," the Greater Houston Partnership wrote in its analysis.

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