Fort Worth still growing fast but can’t claim 12th largest city ranking

For the past year, Fort Worth civic leaders have boasted about the city’s monumental growth that propelled it from 13th to 12th largest city in the country.

“Fort Worth’s move to the 12th largest city in the United States was expected but that doesn’t make the news any less exciting,” former Mayor Betsy Price remarked at the time.

But new data from the U.S. Census puts Fort Worth back to the 13th largest city. Furthermore, it appears that Fort Worth probably never passed Jacksonville, Florida, to reach No. 12 in the first place.

Fort Worth’s bragging rights to the 12th spot were based on census data that showed the city’s population growth in 2020 overshot Jacksonville’s population. But more current census data shows that the population figures were estimates and that Fort Worth’s population in 2020 is now recorded as 918,915 and Jacksonville’s as 949,611.

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The recent release of 2021 census population estimates shows that Fort Worth is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. Fort Worth’s estimated population in 2021 was 935,508 while Jacksonville’s was 954,614.

While many of the nation’s largest cities saw steep population declines or only modest growth, Fort Worth was third in the ranking of new residents added between 2020 and 2021. San Antonio topped the list of population gainers and Phoenix, Arizona, was in second place.

Mayor Mattie Parker said the data shows that Fort Worth continues to be a magnet for growth.

“The most recent population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau showcase the incredible continued growth or our city, as well as many of our North Texas neighbors,” Parker said. “We’re in great company on the list of the United States’ thriving large cities, and wherever we find ourselves in that population ranking, we will continue to focus on making Fort Worth an excellent place to live, work and raise a family for those who live here today and those who will live here in the future.”

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The same cities remained on the 2021 list of the top 15 largest cities as in 2020 but more than half experienced population declines between 2020 and 2021. New York’s population decreased by 305,465; Chicago dropped by 45,175; Los Angeles declined by 40,537.

Texas cities on the top 15 list that saw population declines were Dallas, with a loss of 14,777 people; and Houston, down 11,777 people.

Besides San Antonio, Phoenix and Fort Worth, other cities on the population growth list were  Jacksonville, Austin, and Columbus, Ohio, which all experienced only modest growth.

Other highlights from the census data:

  • Georgetown in the Austin area had the largest population growth from 2020 to 2021 with a 10.5 percent increase.
  • The fastest growing county in the U.S. was Rockwall County, with a 6.5 percent population increase between 2020 and 2021. Other fast growing counties in Texas were Chambers and Fort Bend in the Houston area and Hays and Comal counties in Central Texas.
  • Besides Fort Worth, other North Texas cities on the list of cities with large population gains were Frisco, Denton and McKinney.
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Many cities and states are challenging 2020 census on claims that their population figures were undercounted, including Austin, one of the fastest-growing cities during the past decade.

The Census Bureau established programs to correct errors but that move has been unsatisfactory to communities that say undercounts cost them state and federal dollars for social services and other needs.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify discrepancies between preliminary and more current census data,