Population Growth in Houston

As populations grow older and more diverse, new and expanded resources may be needed in our region

The three-county area is growing in population, age and diversity.

Why population growth matters to Houston

As one of America’s most diverse regions, Houston’s three main counties are growing at a faster pace than most areas throughout both the nation and state, with high volumes of domestic and international migration. While that growth can create challenges, it also represents new opportunities for Houston to grow culturally and economically.

And the more Houstonians understand population growth, the more we can do to prepare our infrastructure and services to accommodate new residents without disrupting existing residents or damaging our natural environment.

The data

Three-county population growth exceeds the state and the nation

Population by county

Harris County covers 1,777 square miles in the region, followed by Montgomery County with 1,077 square miles coverage, and Fort Bend County with 885 square miles. Together, the three counties cover 40% of the nine-county Houston metro area and have a total population of six million that accounts for 87% of the greater region’s population as of 2017. 

“Across Houston’s three-county area, the population has grown by 124% since 1980, from 2.7 million to almost 6 million in 2017.”

Since 1980, population growth in Texas and the three-county area consistently outpaced the nation across each decade. Fort Bend and Montgomery County have both seen percentage changes in populations that are typically double or triple that of Harris County and the state.

Drivers of growth: births, deaths and migration

Changes in population are usually the result of three factors: fertility, mortality and migration. Natural population increases occur through fertility (births) and mortality (deaths), while net migration measures the difference between the number of people entering and leaving an area. 

In 2010 and 2017, both Fort Bend and Montgomery counties grew primarily because of net migration, meaning more new residents moved into the county than those who moved out. Fort Bend’s 71% net migration growth and Montgomery’s 77% drastically exceeded the rates of the state (47%) and the nation (48%). Only Harris County experienced negative net migration in 2017, with more people leaving the county than moving in. However, Harris County’s natural increase meant that its overall population continued to grow. 

In 2017, Harris County lost 45,113 residents to domestic migration and gained 34,791 through international migration, a drastic change over 2010 in both categories. Meanwhile, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties gained population through both domestic and international migration, although growth has slowed since 2010. 

Population growth by race and ethnicity

Across the nation, state and three-county area, people of color are becoming a larger part of our communities. Because each of Houston’s three main counties is experiencing its own unique growth patterns, we’ll be looking at each one individually to explore how different groups affect growth in each county. 

Demographic changes in Fort Bend County

Fort Bend County’s population, at 760,000 in 2017, doubled in the last two decades alone and is now one of the most diverse in the nation. 

In 2017, Hispanics (24.5%), Asians (22.1%), and Blacks (20.3%) comprised two-thirds of the county’s population, nearly even with the White population (33%) which also showed steady, but slower growth over time compared to other groups. Notably, the Asian population nearly quadrupled in size between 2000 and 2017, and the Hispanic and Black populations more than doubled.

116% growth

Fort Bend County’s population growth is the fastest in the region between 2000 and 2017.

Demographic changes in Harris County

Harris County’s population, at 4.5 million in 2017, has been largely comprised of people of color since 2000. Hispanics have represented the largest ethnic group since 2010, now comprising 42% of the total population.

Since 2000, the county has seen the most growth in the Asian (89%), Hispanic (78%), and Other/Multi-ethnic (65%) populations, with more modest growth in its Black population (39%). Notably, Harris County is the only county in the three-county area to experience a decline in its White population (4%) between 2000 and 2017. By 2050, Harris County’s population is projected to reach almost 6.3 million people, with 59% Hispanics, 16% Whites, 14% Blacks and 10% Asians or other.

Demographic changes in Montgomery County

Montgomery County’s population, at 570,000 in 2017, nearly doubled over the last two decades. 

The county remains mostly White (66%), with its Hispanic (24.1%), Black (5.1%) and Asian (4.9%) populations making up one-third of the county’s total population in 2017. The county has experienced incredible growth in Asian (470%), Hispanic (270%) and Black (89%) populations between 2000 and 2017 — the fastest demographic shift of all three counties during that time period. 

Population growth by age

Population distribution by age group offers a more precise way to characterize the population change, revealing which age groups are driving the growth in the region and how resources may need to be allocated to meet emerging needs in our region. 

All three counties saw the greatest increase in seniors (65 and over). The senior population in Fort Bend County quadrupled within 17 years; while the senior population in Montgomery County and Harris County nearly tripled and doubled respectively. The second highest growth for all counties was among the working-age (18 to 64) population. Notably, Fort Bend County’s population under five years old has doubled  — significantly higher than any other county, the state and the nation.

The data shows that growth in age groups is very different among Whites and nonwhites. The nonwhite population has increased more across all age groups for all counties. Montgomery County experienced the greatest increase in nonwhite children under the age of five, by 215.6% within 17 years, followed by Fort Bend and Harris counties. 

4x growth in 17 years

The senior population in Fort Bend County quadrupled between 2000 and 2017.

Resources