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Government Commentary: Ray Perryman: Population growth can mean headaches, but the alternative is...

Commentary: Ray Perryman: Population growth can mean headaches, but the alternative is worse

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In some parts of the U.S., a lack of opportunities is forcing young people to look elsewhere for meaningful employment. High taxes or exorbitant housing prices are encouraging families to leave other locales.

Economic vitality drives population expansion, particularly migration, and Texas cities are growing rapidly.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released new population data which included estimates for city population changes from July 2017 to July 2018.

Much of the time, economic series are tracked for “Metropolitan Statistical Areas,” which are normally one or more counties linked to a large central city. While it makes sense from an economic perspective in that these clusters of counties are functioning largely together as an economic unit, slicing the data this way often conceals part of what’s going on.

For example, the Dallas-Plano-Irving Metropolitan Division is seven counties centered on Dallas and includes several other cities which are growing rapidly.

Of the 15 fastest-growing large (population greater than 50,000) cities, seven are in Texas. New Braunfels ranked second with 7.2% expansion, Frisco is fourth, McKinney sixth, Georgetown seventh, Rowlett eighth, Midland 13th and Round Rock 15th. These impressive population centers are outgrowths of larger cities (San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin), with the exception of Midland (which is the epicenter for the current oil surge).

Looking at the cities adding the most new residents (as opposed to the largest percentage gain), five are in Texas.

San Antonio ranked second, adding 20,824 to top 1.53 million. Fort Worth was third (up 19,552 to reach 895,008), Austin sixth (with a 12,504 gain to 964,254), Frisco 10th (up 10,884 to 188,170), and McKinney 13th (up 9,888 to 191,645).

It is pretty remarkable that even some of the smaller Texas cities like Frisco and McKinney added more people than the likes of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago.

As people migrate to areas with abundant jobs, they bring with them the needed skills to enable continued expansion. It’s a virtual cycle, with a large and capable workforce encouraging businesses to locate and expand which in turn encourages additional people to relocate. Growth begets growth.

At the same time, rapid expansion presents significant challenges.

Housing markets may struggle to absorb new residents, sometimes causing prices to rise and affordability to suffer. Roadways, water systems, and other types of infrastructure take time to expand and congestion and other problems may arise. Additional schools, health care providers, and city services may be required. The list goes on.

Growth can indeed be expensive for cities and other governmental entities, but it’s a clearly desirable condition and far preferable to the alternative.

In some parts of the U.S., a lack of opportunities is forcing young people to look elsewhere for meaningful employment. High taxes or exorbitant housing prices are encouraging families to leave other locales.

The bottom line is that these high-growth areas of Texas are doing something – actually many things – right.

M. Ray Perryman, Ph.D., is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com). He also serves as Institute Distinguished Professor of Economic Theory and Method at the International Institute for Advanced Studies.


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