The Texas Story Is the Story of Its Cities

Cover design by the Heads of State.

Cover design by the Heads of State

I have the lead article in a new City Journal special issue devoted to Texas. There are a variety of pieces about the state, looking at its energy industry, growing debt, philanthropy, etc. It’s a mix of the positive and negatives.

My piece, the first to go online, is called “The Lone Star Quartet” and is a survey of the four major metro areas of Texas: Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. These four regions have accounted for an overwhelming share of the state’s growth. But while there are similarities such as sprawl, each city is also very distinct from the others.  Here’s an excerpt:

Texas’s spectacular growth is largely a story of its cities—especially of Austin, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. These Big Four metropolitan areas, arranged in a layout known as the “Texas Triangle,” contain two-thirds of the state’s population and an even higher share of its jobs. Nationally, the four metros, which combined make up less than 6 percent of the American population, posted job growth equivalent to 30 percent of the United States’ total since the financial crash in 2007. Within Texas, they’ve accounted for almost 80 percent of the state’s population growth since 2000 and over 75 percent of its job growth. Meantime, a third of Texas counties, mostly rural, have actually been losing population.

While all four Texas metro areas rank among the most booming cities in America, they face threats to future prosperity. When their growth cycles inevitably come to an end, they will have to prove themselves again, as Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York once did. Time will tell whether they can renew themselves across economic cycles, as New York has done—or fall, like Detroit. The Texas metros also must demonstrate that they can grow their per-capita incomes over time, not just add lots of jobs. Their record here is mixed, with only the Houston region significantly outperforming the national average. Austin and Dallas have lost ground versus the country as a whole since 2000. San Antonio did better but still trails the U.S. average.

Click through to read the whole thing, which includes additional sidebars on the four cities written by others.

from Aaron M. Renn


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