Texas could be home to 4 of country's 10 largest cities in 2021, expert says

Texas could be home to 4 of country's 10 largest cities in 2021

Austin aerial skyline with bridges and Lady Bird Lake
The Capital City is on the brink of becoming the nation's 10th largest city. Ryan Conine/Getty Images

It appears Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio soon will welcome Austin as a new member of their elite club — the 10 largest cities in the U.S.

As it stands now, Austin ranks as the 11th largest city in the country, right behind San Jose, California. But a new projection from the City of Austin indicates that sometime next year, Austin will leapfrog San Jose to claim the No. 10 spot. Unless it sees an unlikely surge in population, San Jose would fall to No. 11.

Houston ranks as the country’s fourth-largest city, with San Antonio at No. 7 and Dallas at No. 9. When Austin climbs into the top 10, Texas will boast four of the country’s 10 largest cities. California currently has three cities in the top 10 (Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose).

According to this month’s Imagine Austin newsletter, released June 16, Austin’s ascent to No. 10 is coming “sooner than we had previously anticipated.” That’s because San Jose has witnessed population loss for several years in a row, while Austin keeps growing.

“As Austin gets closer to breaching the 1 million total population mark (maybe in late 2020), San Jose is drifting backwards, and if the current trend holds, even with reduced growth velocity on Austin’s part, we’ll become the 10th most populous city in the country sometime during 2021,” says the newsletter, produced by the City of Austin.

San Jose officially broke the 1 million barrier in 2014. Its population as of July 2019 was 1,021,795. From 2018 to 2019, San Jose’s population dipped by 6,225, or 0.61 percent, according to the newsletter. Among the 30 largest U.S. cities, San Jose’s growth rate from 2018 to 2019 ranked 28th.

The City of Austin’s demographer, Ryan Robinson, had predicted earlier this year that Austin’s population would hit 1 million this summer. As of January 1, Austin was home to 996,369 people, Robinson has estimated. Robinson couldn’t be reached for comment about his latest projection.

Robinson’s forecast for reaching the 1 million milestone came before the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recession. The twin crises, experts say, are reducing the speed of Austin’s population growth.

Angelos Angelou, founder and CEO of Austin-based economic development and site selection firm AngelouEconomics, said in April that he anticipates the Austin metro area will add only 35,000 residents this year and 45,000 next year, compared with roughly 55,000 to 65,000 a year in the 2016-19 period.

Angelou said his projection of lower-than-usual population growth stems from the tendency of people to avoid a move amid difficult economic times.

While Austin’s population growth has been outpaced by growth in the suburbs, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Austin remains a people magnet. From July 2018 to July 2019, the city gained an estimated 16,439 residents, the bureau says. That translates into an annual growth rate of 1.68 percent, the second-fastest growth rate among the 30 biggest U.S. cities, according to the City of Austin. At 1.8 percent, Fort Worth’s annual growth rate was the highest.

“Although population growth within the City of Austin has slowed significantly in recent years, Austin continues to be one of the fastest-growing big cities in the nation, primarily because population growth in almost all other large central cities has slowed during the decade as well,” the Imagine Austin newsletter says.