PolitiFact: Will Austin grow by 50%? That’s on the low side.


San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides floated big numbers in a tweet suggesting the Austin metropolitan area is on pace to outgrow all other places nationally in coming decades.

“Metro population will grow by 67 million people over the next 30 years,” Thomaides wrote, referring to urban areas across the United States. “Austin metro will lead with population growth over 50%.”

We can’t fact-check whether predictions will come true. In this instance instead, we focused on whether Thomaides, who was elected mayor in 2016, had a solid factual basis for his claim about the Austin metropolitan area’s likely population.

Thomaides told us that he jotted the information in his tweet while attending a panel discussion including economist Jim Diffley during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami Beach.

Diffley — who works for IHS Markit, a consulting firm that says it gives clients, including governments and banks, “next-generation information, analytics and solutions” — confirmed that he’d delivered the numbers, including the firm’s expectation that from 2016 to 2046, metro regions nationally will gain 66 million residents.

Diffley told us the latest IHS Markit forecast for the five-county Austin-Round Rock metro area is for 83 percent growth over 30 years — from 2,064,000 residents in 2016 to 3,780,000 in 2046.

So, the report projects that the greater Austin area will grow even more than what Thomaides said.

IHS Markit’s latest report indicates the Austin area’s population increasing far faster than other regions nationally — though not all other regions.

Among big Texas metro areas, the report chart suggests the San Antonio area will grow 53 percent; Dallas-Fort Worth, 57 percent; Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, 56 percent; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, 59.8 percent; and El Paso, 30 percent.

Nationally, the chart indicates, only three less-populous Florida metros will grow at a greater clip than the Austin area. Per the chart, The Villages will see 96.5 percent population growth, reaching 245,400 residents; Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island will see 88 percent population growth, reaching 694,300 residents; and Cape Coral-Fort Myers will experience 84 percent growth, becoming home to 1,339,000 people.

We queried a pair of Austin experts on growth for their takes on the IHS Markit projections.

Beverly Kerr of the Austin Chamber of Commerce called IHS Markit a solid source. “I don’t think the projection that Austin will be at 3,858,800 by 2046 is too out there,” Kerr said.

Kerr otherwise noted that Ryan Robinson, the City of Austin demographer, has separately projected the Austin-Round Rock area having a 2045 population of more than 4.3 million, more than doubling an estimated 2 million residents in 2016, a forecast Robinson reaffirmed to us.

Kerr also pointed out that the state demographer, Lloyd Potter, has said that assuming migration continues at the pace set in 2000-2010, the Austin-Round Rock metro area would be home to 4,651,780 people in 2046. If that’s too aggressive an assumption, Kerr noted, the Potter-led Texas Demographic Center also provides a forecast of 3,081,305 residents in 2046, assuming a migration rate half the 2000-2010 rate.

Our ruling:

Thomaides said the Austin metro region “will lead” the nation “with population growth over 50%” over the next 30 years.

That “over 50%” is actually an understatement, based on what experts including the Texas state demographer predict. And while the report behind the mayor’s claim showed Austin No. 1 in projected growth among similar-sized metro areas, less populous metro areas in Florida were projected to grow at even faster clips.

We rate this claim Mostly True.



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