A similar pattern can be seen in the Houston metro area:
Meanwhile, the state’s biggest cities have added millions of people.
Why is Texas’s population skyrocketing while other big states — notably, New York, Illinois and California — are languishing?
The answer: Texas built a sturdy economic growth engine, and it drives population growth.
The Texas growth machine has a few key components, each of which help the state economy expand.
There’s the obvious: oil. Every good economy needs something of value to trade — and Texas has more oil than any other state.
Texas also has a long border with Mexico — meaning that it can easily sell oil, refined petroleum products or anything else it makes, to one of our biggest trading partners. Moreover, goods coming to or from Mexico often pass through Texas, making the state a hub of commerce.
The trade is so voluminous that Texans can literally see it happen. “A tremendous amount of freight comes up and goes down to Mexico from Dallas-Fort Worth on this Interstate 35 corridor. There’s just a tremendous number of tractor trailers on it. At any one time, if you’re driving on it, you’re surrounded by trucks that are kind of going north and south.” Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter told me.
But the Texas miracle isn’t grounded only in oil, trade and transportation. The state has no individual income tax, has cultivated business-friendly policies and the overall tax burden on business is low. Just as important, land use laws are lax — businesses can site and build facilities quickly and developers can easily place big, cheap homes on tracts of empty land.
And, as the cities have grown, new industries have gained strength.
Pia Orrenius of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said, “We were basically oil, cotton and cattle in the 1980s, or I would say as far back as the 70s. We went, in 20 years, from oil, cotton and cattle to having a sizable high tech industry, a sizable telecom industry, a sizable manufacturing industry, a downstream energy industry. We’ve been able to diversify into a very broad range of industries. As these industries grow, we grow with them.”
The result: A snowball effect. Trade, oil, expanding cities and weak regulation brought in money and strengthened emerging industries. These industries brought new people and businesses into Texas’s cities — and the state kept growing.
As a result, Texas has become a magnet for migrants from inside America. The Lone Star State nets 100,000 people from other states almost every year.
Many are moving from big, blue states where homes are more expensive and taxes are higher.
New Texans are typically younger — and more likely to be college educated — than the rest of the state’s population.
This wave of arrivals from other states — combined with decades of foreign immigration and steady growth of the Latino population — is making Texas more diverse.
And these new, young Texans are creating families. The birthrate in Texas — despite some decline — is notably higher than the national average.
Put simply, people move to Texas — from abroad and other states — because they can make more money, afford a home and raise a family. The economic engine is driving population growth.
Can the Texas miracle last?
Texas has found a simple formula for success — economic opportunity and a low cost of living — and stuck with it. People want simple things: good jobs, affordable housing and room for kids. And they’re willing to move to states that offer them.
Texas may not offer these opportunities forever. Oil may become less valuable as green energy becomes cheaper and more plentiful. The rising populations in big cities may demand services beyond those supported by a low rate of taxation. If the suburbs turn blue and the GOP truly embraces populism, the state’s pro-business policies may become less of a sure thing.
Until then, Texas will continue to attract people — and the political power they bring with them.
Note: Census data for the dot maps was accessed via the University of Minnesota’s NHGIS system. Every dot represents 250 people. Dot location is not exact — I used a block-group based simulation method, similar to the one employed by The Post’s Aaron Williams and Armand Emamdjomeh.