Saturday, May 17, 2014

Census data shows Texas is attracting large numbers of out-of-state movers

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a final project from Spring 2014.

By Julia Ermlich and Lydia Schendel 

We’ve all heard about Austin’s recent population boom and the growing influx of residents from out of state. But in reality, people are moving in droves to all six of Texas’ largest cities.

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, more than 507,000 people moved to Texas from out of state in 2012. More of these migrants came from California than from any other state, comprising 12 percent of the total migration to Texas.

Raymond Perez, a radio-television-film senior at the University of Texas at Austin, moved to Texas from Los Angeles with his family when he was 5 years old. His family saw great promise in Texas’ education system, low cost of living and family-friendly cities.

“My parents wanted to escape the drama of Los Angeles and decided to move to New Braunfels through a job offer my father received,” Perez said. “Texas provided a stable environment where they could raise me with a solid foundation of education. My parents were able to afford to live in a much better neighborhood at a much lower cost. Some of my uncles and aunts even followed us to Texas. They sold their homes in California and purchased larger houses in safer neighborhoods, as many other California natives have done.”

Perez’ experience exemplifies a few of the primary reasons why people are moving to Texas from out of state. California’s public school system is notoriously underfunded and overpopulated, whereas Texas’ relatively high property tax rates provide schools with larger budgets and newer, larger facilities. In addition, Texas’ overall cost of living is much lower than in California, in part due to Texas’ lack of a state income tax and cheaper housing.

It’s clear why many people see Texas as an appealing alternative to their current state. But once they decide on the Lone Star State as their new home, which cities are they zeroing in on?

In 2012, more than 38,000 people moved to Houston from out of state. Houston was the top choice for new Texans, attracting 7.5 percent of the total migration to the state. However, Austin has the greatest concentration of out-of-state migrants, at 3.2 percent of the city’s total population.

So why are people choosing Austin and Houston over Texas’ other large cities? In both cases, economic prosperity is a primary factor.

The Houston metro area added over 105,000 jobs in 2012. As the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is home to 24 Fortune 500 companies' headquarters, making it an attractive option for job-seekers. Houston also has the third lowest overall cost of living among the nation’s 20 most populous metropolitan areas, according to the C2ER Cost of Living Index 2013 Annual Average.

Benito Juarez, senior manager of the Office of International Communities in Houston, said that along with the low cost of living, Houston’s thriving economy is likely the biggest motivating factor for out-of-state migrants.

“The economy here is a lot better than many other cities,” Juarez said. “That’s one reason why people are moving here. Houston didn’t suffer that much when the economic recession hit a few years ago, so helps in motivating people to come and stay here.”

Juarez explained that a rapid influx of new residents can certainly cause stresses on the resources and infrastructure of a city, even one as large as Houston. However, Juarez believes the the benefits of a constant flow of newcomers outweigh the negatives.

“Overall, the impact of people moving to Houston from many different places is positive, in all different areas - the economy, jobs, the culture - everything is positive,” Juarez said.

Houston’s reputation as a culturally-rich and economically-booming city draws people in from all corners of the country and the world. Juarez said that migration from out of state and abroad is increasing the diversity of the city.

“Houston is becoming more of an international city and people are realizing that. Just recently, Houston surpassed New York as one of the most diverse cities in the nation, so I think that’s something important to highlight,” Juarez said.

Ryan Robinson, City of Austin Demographer, said that what makes Austin so appealing to out-of-state migrants is a higher quality of life and a healthier economy than can be found in most other Texas cities and U.S. states. In 2010, Kiplinger's ranked Austin as the number one city for business growth in the next decade. Austin is well-known as a hotbed for high-tech and entrepreneurship. State government and the University of Texas also make Austin a promising destination for those seeking employment.

“I know this can be viewed as subjectively defined, but in very real terms, the quality of life differential between Austin and every other Texas city is pretty darn large.  Austin is a very open city, and so is Houston, but they are so different in size. But more simply, out-of-staters are moving to Texas, and to Austin in particular, because of the persistent economic differential within the country. Texas and Austin are still so much healthier economically than almost every other part of the country.”

Robinson said that while migration is a huge economic engine for Austin, it comes with unavoidable challenges wrought by pressure on infrastructure. But these challenges, he said, are pleasant problems to have.

“Cities in many parts of the country are dying on the vine because they are not attracting migrants, and yet it seems to be an all-on or all-off sort of situation,” Robinson said. “Managing growth is an almost impossible task for most rapid growth jurisdictions, but those same cities would never trade their position for one among the ranks of the battered and beleaguered. The City of Austin can be credited with implementing a recently adopted comprehensive plan which is aspirational, yet persuasively calls for a much smarter pattern of future urbanization.”

Die-hard Austinites would be proud to know that the city’s unofficial slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” embodies what Robinson believes is perhaps the most compelling reason for moving to Austin.

“Austin encourages migrants to move here simply by being so open and vibrant,” Robinson said. “We just can't help it.”


Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.