Every decade, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of the U.S. population that will serve as — among many other things — the basis for the reapportionment of the 435 members of Congress.
Population estimates produced by the Census Bureau in the interim of the previous and upcoming decennial censuses show that Texas, which has 29 million residents, has led the 50 states in the total population growth.
Since 2010, the state has added 3.8 million residents, while the next highest states of Florida and California gained 2.7 million and 2.3 million, respectively.
Texas has also been a leader in terms of percentage of population growth since 2010 at 15.31 percent, just behind Utah’s growth of 15.99 percent.
Even though the state led the country in population growth, it still reflected the national trend of a slowing population growth.
In the last census, the state was shown to have grown by 4.3 million residents since 2000 — about 500,000 more than in the 2010s, though that gap may grow slightly smaller before Census Day on April 1.
Not unlike other states, urban areas in Texas saw greater population growth than in rural counties.
Data from the 2014-2015 estimated population change show that out of the twenty fastest growing metro areas in the United States, Texas had four: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
In the top ten most populous counties of Texas, the population increased by 2.4 million throughout the last decade, according to estimates from World Population Review.
During the same time period, the next forty most populous counties grew by a combined amount of about 1 million residents, and the over two hundred remaining rural counties grew by around 147,000.
Notably, Hays, Comal, and Kendall counties — all in the area between Austin and San Antonio — each grew by over 30 percent and for a total growth in population of around 120,000.
Other counties to see growth rates in the last decade of over 30 percent include Hudspeth (near El Paso), Fort Bend (near Houston), and Williamson (north of Austin).
Though the county to see the highest growth rate was Loving County, located on the Texas-New Mexico border southeast of Carlsbad, which grew from a population of 82 to an estimated 152 — an 80 percent growth.
Keeping with the national trend of slowing population growth, 153 counties saw decreases in growth rate compared to the last decade, while only 101 counties saw increases.
In the top ten most populous counties, only Dallas and Travis counties grew faster than between the last census counts.
Looking at the other extreme, Hidalgo and El Paso counties saw the most significant declines, growing by about 114,000 and 81,000 fewer residents compared to the previous decade.
Larger declines in population growth were also seen in the other counties along the Texas-Mexico border when compared to average slight decline the rest of the state.
Hudspeth County was the lone exception to that rule, increasing from a population of 3,467 in 2010 to a current estimate of 4,795.
In April, the Census Bureau will begin compiling the official population numbers that will be used to determine the number of congressional representatives Texas will receive and provide the basis for redistricting.
Map lines for state house, state senate, and congressional districts are all supposed to be redrawn by the state legislature in the 2021 session with assistance from the Texas Legislative Council (TLC) and with input from citizens and other interested parties.
Since there is a small window of time between the release of the population data and the deadline for bills to be filed and voted upon by lawmakers, there is a strong probability that either the governor will extend lawmakers’ time by calling a special session or that the Legislative Redistricting Board will take over the process when the session ends.
Eventually — and certainly before the 2022 election filing deadlines, even if it takes a court order — the new maps are set into effect.
Legally, the process could continue for years as the lines and gerrymandering practices are questioned in court battles.
Forgoing the legal battles that likely lie ahead, while the number of state legislative districts will remain the same, Texas is expected to gain two new congressional seats — assuming no changes are made to the Census Bureau’s rule to count residents, including illegal immigrants, instead of citizens.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.