San Antonio continues to record impressive population growth, ranking second nationally in increase in population in a single year, new census numbers show.
The city added 17,237 people between July 2018 and July 2019, pushing its estimated population to 1,547,253, according to census data released late Wednesday.
San Antonio’s growth was outpaced only by Phoenix, which added more than 26,000 residents during the same one-year period, driving its population to nearly 1.7 million people.
Austin lagged slightly behind San Antonio, ranking third nationally with an influx of 16,439 new residents as its total population inches closer to the 1 million mark.
The estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau focused on cities with 50,000 residents or more.
This is the second consecutive year that San Antonio ranked second nationally in growth in raw numbers in a single year. Two years ago, the city topped the list.
San Antonio ranked third nationally among U.S. cities showing the strongest numeric growth since 2010. The city added 221,092 residents in that time frame. It was outranked only by Phoenix, which gained more than 234,000 people, and Houston, which recorded an influx of nearly 225,000 people in that nine-year period.
San Antonio remains the seventh most populous city in the nation, the latest census data show.
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“In some ways, it almost seems as though our growth has increased,” said State Demographer Lloyd Potter, a professor of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
On an economic level, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, “San Antonio was doing really well,” he said.
The city is showing strong growth in both its suburban ring and urban core, Potter said. “And that probably is an indication of the kinds of jobs that are being created here — and that young professionals are finding San Antonio to be an attractive place to live, to work in,” he said.
“We just went through this cycle of hiring new faculty members at UTSA. And it was just such an easy sell. You’re not trying to convince them. You’re telling them (San Antonio is) a great place, but they already seem to know that.”
Quite a few Californians have moved to Texas — and San Antonio in particular — since 2010, said Rogelio Sáenz, another UTSA demography professor. The city has persistently drawn an influx of new residents from the Rio Grande Valley as well, he said.
San Antonio’s housing prices give the city an advantage over other locations, Sáenz said. “While we have seen that the prices have gone up tremendously here in San Antonio, we’re not anywhere (near) where Austin has been,” he said Wednesday.
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The census bureau doesn’t break down how births, deaths and migration patterns drive cities’ population changes. But such data for Bexar County, released in late March, suggested that births outnumbering deaths was a big factor in the growth recorded from 2018 to 2019.
Births exceeded deaths by 12,520 during that one-year period, accounting for more than half of Bexar County’s population increase.
Nearly 10,000 people who moved to Bexar County in the same time frame played a lesser but still significant role in driving up its population. Almost 7,500 of them moved from elsewhere in Texas or the nation, while more than 2,300 moved from international locations, census numbers show.
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Most of Texas’ largest cities have recorded strong population growth in recent years. Since 2010, the combined population of San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas surged by nearly 934,000 people, the census bureau said.
Between July 2018 and July 2019 alone, those five cities collectively recorded a population increase of nearly 54,000 people.
While such growth may be exciting to some people, it presents challenges to city leaders and social service providers.
“Growth sounds good, but we want to make sure that Texas and our major cities are growing in a way that people of all backgrounds can contribute to and share in the prosperity,” said Amy Knop-Narbutis, research and data director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning research organization based in Austin. “And we know that not all Texans have equal access to the conditions that they need to thrive, like affordable health care, quality education and good jobs with policies like paid sick leave.”
The center advocates using public policy to improve equity in growing cities, she said.
“With a lot of growth in cities, something that comes with that is a crunch on the availability of affordable housing, which is something that Texas already struggles with … That’s a trend that’s getting worse over time and especially as more people move in,” Knop-Narbutis said. “We need to look at what we can do through public policy and with the help of service providers to make sure that everyone has access to affordable housing.”
Population growth isn’t a worthy metric for government officials to rely on if they are trying to create a more equitable city, said Fernando Centeno, a San Antonio native who lives in Alamo Heights and specializes in community economic development strategies. He previously served for 12 years as a commissioner in the city of San Antonio’s urban renewal agency and closely follows the city’s planning agenda.
Centeno is concerned that San Antonio’s growth is creating greater density at a rate that isn’t sustainable. San Antonio is already known as one of the most economically segregated cities in the country and had a poverty rate of 20 percent in 2018, which is the latest data available from the census bureau.
“If you’re already a poor city – especially a poor city with a 20 percent rate of poverty – and you’re promoting the city in a way which is to encourage people to move here and you subsidize that growth for year after year after year, there are going to be consequences,” Centeno said.
“The city already has an exploding safety net situation. It’s hard to know how many people who are coming here are needing to have public (assistance) versus how many people … have their own healthy income to sustain themselves.”
Staff writers Marina Starleaf Riker and Taylor Goldenstein and news researcher Misty Harris contributed to this report.
Peggy O’Hare covers demographics, the census and occasionally crime and general assignment stories in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Peggy, become a subscriber. firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @Peggy_OHare