Bexar County landed among the top 10 counties with the most population growth between 2010 and 2019, according to estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday.
In that period, Bexar County added nearly 289,000 people, its population reaching the 2 million threshold for the first time. In 2010, Bexar County had 1,714,781 residents living within its boundaries. In 2019, there were 2,003,554 residents, a 16.8 percent increase. That growth made Bexar County sixth in the nation with the most numeric growth between 2010 and 2019.
In 2018, the Census Bureau logged just over 1,981,000 residents.
Lloyd Potter, the state demographer and interim dean at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Public Policy, said although people think a growing population is attributed solely to people moving to Bexar County, that’s not quite the case.
“About 156,000 people of the population change this decade were migrants, while 132,000 were babies,” Potter said. “It’s close to half and half, in terms of population growth from natural increase.”
Between 2018 and 2019, population growth in Bexar County was actually due more to natural increase than to new residents moving in, Potter said.
Local officials have been preparing for major growth in the area for years, anticipating 1 million more people by 2040. And the growth has happened quickly – San Antonio hit 1.5 million residents in 2017.
San Antonio was also recently ranked as one of the fastest-growing cities when the Census Bureau compared 2017 population data to 2018 data.
“We had certainly felt it for a while,” said David Marquez, the county’s executive director for economic and community development. “We were tracking it already – we see the plots, the roads, all of that stuff. We were cognizant of a lot of growth happening before the census had anything to say about it.”
The county’s growth can be traced back to a strong local economy, Potter said.
“We are attracting people moving here because we have a growing economy,” he said. “If you look at the states that are sending migrants to Texas, it’s largely California, New York, Illinois, [those] are the big senders … All of those states had net out-domestic migration for the decade so far. Where Texas is not experiencing that – we have very positive net in-migration.”
Six of the 10 counties with the most new residents added between 2010 and 2019 are in Texas. Harris County added 620,149 residents, while Tarrant, Dallas, Collin, and Travis counties added between 291,000 and 249,000 each, the Census Bureau reported.
Two counties bordering Bexar – Comal and Kendall – were among the nation’s fastest-growing on a percentage basis. Comal County had a 43.9 percent increase from 2010 to 2019, while Kendall County saw a 42.1 percent increase. Those were two of the four counties along the Austin-San Antonio corridor that had the largest percent growth in the same time span; Hays County grew by 46.5 percent and Williamson County grew by 39.8 percent.
When counties see large percent increases in population, Potter said that mostly comes from new people moving into the area.
“Hays, Kendall, Comal – the bulk of their change is from net migration,” Potter said. “You’re adding a lot of people moving into those areas. And if you go to any of those counties, it’s not hard to find huge developments just plowing roads and plopping up houses just as fast as they can.”
But the driving force behind growth in these areas will change in the future, Potter said.
“If you look at Comal County 10 years from now, a high percentage of their population growth will be from natural population increase,” he said. “Eventually, there will be less and less land available for new housing stock, so you end up having most of the growth occurring … as more births than deaths. “
More than half of the nation’s counties saw a decrease in population in 2019 compared to 2010. Most small counties lost residents, while most large counties added residents, according to the Census Bureau.
“One interesting trend we have seen this decade is widespread population decline among smaller counties, while larger counties tended to have population growth,” said Christine Hartley, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division, in a statement Thursday.
Marquez said Texans are a bit spoiled from seeing consistent population growth for so long.
“That is not universally true across the country,” he said. “There are still parts of the country shedding more people than gaining. That’s a very precarious position to be in because it’s hard to reverse. People will see that as an indicator of voting with their feet, whether a community is worth staying in.”