Central Texas area hits 2 million mark

Perhaps the balloons and confetti fell a little too early last year when the Austin metro area celebrated surpassing 2 million residents.

Turns out, after some routine revisions to the U.S. Census Bureau data, the area — which includes a fast-growing Pflugerville — actually hit that milestone later than originally thought, according to new numbers released Thursday.

Specifically, the five-county metro area cleared that population hurdle by July 1, 2016 — with 2,056,405 people — not July 1, 2015, when the latest estimates put the Austin area’s population at 1,998,104 people. (Population estimates are typically released almost a year after the fact.)

Peter Borsella, a Census Bureau demographer, said the agency updates its estimates annually as new and more accurate data comes in. Borsella was less than sympathetic to the Austin area’s recalled-then-regranted victory.

“I understand you’re crossing a major population threshold, which makes it more noticeable, but changes like that from new data is not uncommon,” he said. “And relatively speaking those are very small changes.”

In the case of the Austin metro area, the 2015 estimate was revised downward by just 2,756 people. Only two metro areas in the U.S. saw no change in their 2015 estimates, an indication of the commonality of such revisions.

City demographer Ryan Robinson was equally unfazed.

“It wasn’t quite 2 million, but because we’re gaining 55,000 to 60,000 people each year, if we didn’t cross that threshold July 1 (2015), then we crossed it very soon after,” Robinson said. “So to me, it’s kind of splitting hairs.”

In fact, last year the Austin metro area — which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties — was the fastest-growing major metro area with more than 1 million people, a feat it has accomplished every year since 2010. The Austin area grew by 2.9 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Pflugerville has played its own role in that growth, being dubbed last year as the 11th-fastest growing city with a population of at least 50,000. Mayor Victor Gonzales, who was born and raised in Pflugerville, said that “warp speed” growth has occurred particularly over the past decade.

“I think the growth was predestined, so to speak,” he said. “I grew up in Pflugerville when it was still an agricultural community. Lately that growth is moving much faster. There are a lot of transplants from California over the past 10 years, in the Highland Park area especially.”

Amy Madison, executive director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation, said suburbs offer much for families, which has led to rapid growth surrounding Austin.

“Even if they’re commuting to the (Austin) city center, it creates a better lifestyle for their family in ways that they may not have in a more urban structure,” she said.

Robinson predicted the numbers are on track for the Austin metro area to hit the 3 million mark — or very close — by 2030.

By the numbers

2,056,405: Austin-Round Rock metro area population as of July 1.

2.9%: Metro area’s population growth 2015-16.

5.09%: Population growth in Hays County in that year.

4.07%: Williamson County population growth.

3.15%: Bastrop County population growth.

2.09%: Travis County population growth.

1.77%: Caldwell County population growth.

Source: Census Bureau


Taylor Goldenstein Mike Parker, American-Statesman Staff, Austin Statesman, 3/27/17, statesman.com