Step aside, Indianapolis and Jacksonville. Austin is moving on up.
With the fifth-largest population increase among all U.S. cities for the year ending July 1, 2012, Austin leapfrogged past Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Fla., to become the nation’s 11th-most populous city, according to population estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau. Between 2011 and 2012, Austin’s population increased by 25,395, or an average of about 70 people a day. The Census Bureau estimated Austin’s 2012 population at 842,592.
The latest population figures extend a remarkable rise for Austin, which only last year passed San Francisco to become the nation’s 13th-largest city.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell said the news wasn’t unexpected, given Austin’s steady growth. “Our city is strong, and getting stronger every day,” Leffingwell said in a statement. “Our growth and economic success is not accidental.”
Of the 10 U.S. cities with the largest population gains, half were in Texas.
“Texas is continuing to dominate population growth in the country, and that certainly is being driven by economic growth,” state demographer Lloyd Potter said.
Smaller cities and suburbs in the Austin metro area also saw some of the nation’s fastest growth.
San Marcos had the highest rate of growth among all U.S. cities and towns with at least 50,000 people. Its population rose 4.9 percent between 2011 and 2012, to 50,001, according to the estimates.
Cedar Park saw the fourth-fastest growth among all large cities, increasing 4.7 percent to 57,957, and Georgetown ranked seventh, increasing 4.2 percent to 52,303.
In all, eight of the 15 fastest-growing large U.S. cities were in Texas. No other state had more than one city on the list.
The new census figures add another layer to the long-running story of growth in Texas. The state has led all others in population growth since 2000, and Austin has become something of a fixture on the Census Bureau’s periodic lists of fastest-growing cities. In the population growth figures released last year, Austin was fourth among all U.S. cities with a one-year population gain of 30,221. Its fifth-place showing this year was only five people behind fourth-ranked San Antonio.
City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson projected last year that Austin would vault to the No. 11 perch on the list of the nation’s biggest cities. But the census estimates beat Robinson’s forecast of when that would occur by about nine months. This week, Robinson called the latest census estimates more evidence of a “micro-burst of population growth” in Austin dating back three or four years.
“It is testimony to Austin’s one-two punch of job creation and a very high quality of life,” Robinson said, adding that the data verify what people who live here experience daily.
“The population growth is so rapid,” he said, “that every man and woman on the street can literally sense it in terms of increasing traffic congestion, more people out at restaurants. You can feel it.”
Austin is behind No. 10 on the list, San Jose, Calif., which had a considerably larger population of 982,765 in 2012.
Potter, the state demographer and director of the Texas State Data Center, said Texas emerged from the recession stronger than most other states, and cities like Austin are capitalizing on that. The Austin metro area attracted more young adults as well as young adults with college degrees than any other major metropolitan area in the country from 2009-2011, according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.
“Migration is really putting these cities on top of the list,” Potter said, “and the migration is being driven by growing economic opportunity and jobs.”
Potter said the estimates suggest that the development along the roughly 70-mile stretch between Austin and San Antonio “is really taking off, more so than what we’ve seen in the past.”
Rice University demographer Steve Murdock said the latest estimates build on earlier census data showing Texas’ biggest growth concentrated in four regions — Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Houston-Galveston, the Austin-San Antonio corridor, and Midland-Odessa, which he said, after economic ups and downs, is flourishing again with new energy exploration.
Texas’ population surge has been driven up to now equally by natural increase and migration, according to demographers. Murdock said he doesn’t expect that to change too much, but he thinks that future census data might show a larger proportion of growth stemming from domestic migration.
Nation’s fastest-growing large cities*
City/percent increase/2012 population
1. San Marcos, 4.91; 50,001
2. South Jordan, Utah, 4.87; 55,934
3. Midland, 4.87; 119,385
4. Cedar Park, 4.67; 57,957
5. Clarksville, Tenn., 4.43; 142,519
6. Alpharetta, Ga., 4.37; 61,981
7. Georgetown, 4.21; 52,303
8. Irvine, Calif., 4.21; 229,985
9. Buckeye, Ariz., 4.14; 54,542
10. Conroe, 4.01; 61,533
*From July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012; large cities are those with a population of at least 50,000
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 population estimates
Top 10 cities with largest numeric increases*
1. New York, 67,058; 8,336,697
2. Houston, 34,625; 2,160,821
3. Los Angeles, 34,483; 3,857,799
4. San Antonio, 25,400; 1,382,951
5. Austin, 25,395; 842,592
6. Phoenix, 24,536; 1,488,750
7. Dallas, 23,341; 1,241,162
8. Charlotte, N.C., 18,989; 775,202
9. San Diego, 18,074; 1,338,348
10. Fort Worth, 16,328; 777,992
*From July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012 population estimates