Brace yourselves, Austin, TX. The latest projection from the Texas state demographer indicates the population of the Austin metro area will sail past 3 million in 2045. But the City of Austin’s demographer, Ryan Robinson, predicts that milestone will happen about 15 years sooner.

“I think we’ll bust through the 3 million mark by 2030,” Robinson tells the LawnStarter blog.

More precisely, Robinson expects the Austin area’s population to be 3,063,000 on April 1, 2030, meaning the five-county region actually would cross the 3 million threshold sometime in 2029.

austin-area-population-1

The state demographer’s office envisions the Austin area not hitting the 3 million mark — 3,038,645, to be exact — until 2045.

For his part, Steve Murdock, director of Rice University’s Hobby Center for the Study of Texas and former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, says it’s possible for the Austin area to reach the 3 million milestone by 2030. However, he says, that won’t happen without the region’s population rising from a numerical (rather than percentage) standpoint much more than it did during the first 4¼ years of this decade.

Murdock says Robinson “is good at what he does, so he could be right, but it will take continuous robust growth” to climb to 3 million by 2030.

“The amount of redevelopment within the urbanized [Austin] region over the next 15 years will be nothing less than stunning.”
— Ryan Robinson, City of Austin demographer

‘Bullish’ Forecast

So, why is there such an enormous gap between the state demographer’s prediction and Robinson’s prediction? Historically, Robinson says, the state demographer has underestimated population growth for the Austin metro area.

“So I guess I’d say that I am simply more bullish than the state demographer is,” Robinson says. He adds that going over the 3 million line by 2030 “is in no way crazy ambitious, but it’s certainly not conservative.”

Austin traffic

The Austin area is on the road to 3 million residents.
Flickr/Lars Plougmann

Rafael Emmanuel González, a researcher in the Texas state demographer’s office, says his agency’s prediction for the Austin area’s population differs substantially from Robinson’s because the two rely on “entirely different” forecasting models. Robinson explains that the state demographer’s model heavily weights suburban growth, while his model attaches more importance to urban growth.

Robinson says the state demographer’s model “throws the brakes on population growth in Travis County out into the future, whereas I simply don’t think that will happen. The amount of redevelopment within the urbanized [Austin] region over the next 15 years will be nothing less than stunning.”

Austin_population (1)

Nearly 50% Growth

If Robinson is right, the Austin area’s population in 2030 would be around the current population of the Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, metro area. Looking at it from another angle, the Austin area essentially would tack on the current Honolulu, HI, metro area — with close to 1 million residents — between now and 2030.

The Austin area crossed the 2 million line for population in mid-2015, according to Robinson’s estimates. As of October 2015, the area’s population stood at 2,020,452, he says. If the region’s headcount reaches 3 million by 2030, that would translate into a 15-year growth rate of nearly 50 percent.

As for Austin itself, Robinson predicts the city will jet past 1 million residents in 2020. That’s up from an estimated 900,701 residents in 2015. As of April 1, 2020, Robinson expects Austin’s population to be 1,002,763, meaning the city probably will pass the 1 million mark in January 2020.

To learn more about the Austin metro area’s ascent to 2 million, check out our blog post.

‘Cowtown’ Concerns?

In addition to being bullish about the Austin area’s growth, Robinson throws water on the Texas Water Development Board’s forecast that the population of Fort Worth, TX, will exceed that of Austin by 2030.

“I used to be a little concerned about Cowtown catching us, but that won’t happen now,” Robinson says. “They were the fastest-growing large city in the country from 2000 to 2010 but that was largely the result of a massive annexation, and their growth rate since 2010 has been substantially below ours. We’ve since put quite a bit of daylight between us and that dusty, conservative, odoriferous municipality.”

Taking another jab at Cowtown, Robinson refers to Austin as Fort Worth’s “far prettier sister.”

If you take stock in the water board’s figures, Fort Worth is projected to leapfrog Austin to become the fourth largest city in Texas sometime between 2020 and 2030. Robinson calls that forecast “hilarious.”

“We’ve since put quite a bit of daylight between us and that dusty, conservative, odoriferous municipality.”
— Ryan Robinson, City of Austin demographer, taking a jab at Fort Worth

By the Numbers

Based on estimates from the Census Bureau, the population of Austin stood at 912,791 in 2014. That makes Austin the state’s fourth largest city — behind Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, and just ahead of Fort Worth.

In 2020, according to the water board’s forecast, Austin still would be in fourth place with 976,418 residents, and Fort Worth would remain in fifth place at 953,971. However, the water board predicts Fort Worth’s population in 2030 will be 1,206,920, ahead of Austin’s population of 1,153,977.

If the water board’s projections were to materialize, Fort Worth would push aside Austin as the fourth largest city in Texas and Austin would take Fort Worth’s old spot at No. 5. Houston would stay at No. 1, according to the water board’s forecast, with San Antonio still holding down the No. 2 spot and Dallas at No. 3.

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Top photo: Flickr/Jerry Centanni
Photo of Austin skyline: Flickr/Ed Schipul

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