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Texas Suburbs on the Rise

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
April 1, 2024
Texas Suburbs on the Rise

Since COVID, millions of Americans have relocated from major population centers in California, New York, and Illinois (among others) to other regions of the country. Whether in search of job opportunities, affordable housing, or simply a change of scenery, thousands of people have decamped to places like Tampa, Florida, Bozeman, Montana, and Portland, Maine. And the great state of Texas – with its wide open spaces and relatively affordable cost of living – has emerged as a favored destination.

So with 2024 underway, we dove into the data to explore domestic migration trends in the Lone Star State. How much has the population of Texas grown as a result of domestic migration over the past several years – and which metro areas (CBSAs) are attracting new residents? Are people moving to major cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, or are they heading out to the suburbs?

Bigger is Better in the Lone Star State

Between December 2019 and December 2023, Texas’ population grew by 4.3% – with nearly a third of this increase driven by new residents hailing from elsewhere in the U.S. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of these new arrivals made a bee-line to Texas’ four most populous metropolitan areas – Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, San Antonio-New Braunfels, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land. During this time period, each of these CBSAs experienced positive net migration (meaning that more people moved to these areas than away from them) ranging from 0.4% to 3.4%.

All Hat and No Cattle?

But a deeper analysis of foot traffic trends reveals that, even as the CBSAs as a whole added new residents, the primary cities anchoring the CBSAs often lost more domestic migrants than they gained. Austin proper lost 6.1% of its population to relocation, while Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio lost 4.2%, 3.9%, and 3.2%, respectively. Only Fort Worth – Texas’ fifth-most-populous city – experienced positive net migration over the past four years.

An Urban / Suburban Divide

Why are major metropolitan areas seeing population influxes, even as their central urban hubs experience outflows? Drilling down even deeper into zip-code level location intelligence provides a striking snapshot of what’s actually happening on the ground. 

In all four CBSAs, zip codes belonging to the metro area’s flagship city were more likely to experience negative net migration – while those in further-away suburbs and towns were more likely to see positive inflow. 

The relative growth experienced by Fort Worth can be understood against this backdrop: Fort Worth may be one of Texas’ biggest cities, but it is smaller – and less expensive – than Dallas, which dominates the metro area.

Suburban life offers residents many of the benefits of proximity to major urban centers, without some of the drawbacks – like smaller homes. And with more Americans free today to live further away from the office, many appear to be choosing suburban chill over big-city hassle. 

Key Takeaways

Home to the Alamo, a premier state fair, and arguably one of the cultiest grocery chains in the country (H-E-B, of course), Texas has become a key destination for Americans seeking greener (and cheaper) pastures. And though major metropolitan centers in the Lone Star State have seen significant positive net migration over the past four years – much of that growth has taken place outside of the state’s biggest cities. 

How will Texas’ population continue to evolve over the next months and years? Will big cities make a comeback – or are suburbs and smaller towns poised to remain the main drivers of growth?

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven domestic migration analyses to find out.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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