LawnStarter Analysis: Houston Area Added More Than 200 Foreign-Born Residents Per Day in 2014

John Egan

Downtown Houston

The melting pot that is the Houston, TX, metro area is bubbling over. Now, close to one-fourth of the region’s residents are foreign-born.

A LawnStarter analysis of data released in December 2015 by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2014, the Houston metro area gained 204 foreign-born residents per day who are natives of countries like El Salvador, India, Mexico and Vietnam. That beats the 2014 totals for Texas’ three other major metro areas: Dallas-Fort Worth (149 per day), Austin (24 per day) and San Antonio (23 per day).

Metro Area Number of Foreign-born Immigrants 2013 Foreign-born Population as % of Total 2013 Foreign-born Immigrants 2014 Foreign-born Population as % of Total 2014 % Increase 2013-14 Number of Foreign-born Immigrants Per Day 2014
Austin 279,923 14.85% 288,627 14.87% 5.20% 24
Dallas-Forth Worth 1,189,478 17.46% 1,243,764 17.89% 4.60% 149
Houston 1,423,721 22.55% 1,498,072 23.08% 3.10% 204
San Antonio 11.64% 95,300 273,420 11.75% 3.10% 23

Put another way, Houston’s foreign-born population ticked up 5.2 percent from 2013 to 2014, compared with 4.6 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth, and 3.1 percent each in Austin and San Antonio.

The Census Bureau classifies foreign-born residents as all people who were not U.S. citizens at birth. This includes naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (holders of “green cards”), temporary residents (such as foreign students), political refugees and undocumented immigrants.

Houston Immigration Graphic

Houston’s Attraction

Lloyd Potter, the Texas state demographer, cites three reasons for the Houston area’s status as a migrant magnet:

  1. Houston’s prominence as a port city and international trade hub.
  2. Houston’s well-established “enclave of immigrants.” Potter says that “an enclave of immigrants concentrated in one area help to create a welcoming environment for new immigrants, and quite often immigrants living in the United States are able to sponsor family members to immigrate.”
  3. Houston’s job-creating engine. Immigrants “tend to welcome and value the opportunity to work,” Potter says. As of September 2015, the Houston metro area had enjoyed employment increases each month since July 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Painted Wall Houston

Continuation of a Trend

By no means is Houston’s immigrant influx a new phenomenon.

A report released in 2012 by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas found that as of 2010, the Houston region was the most racially and ethnically diverse large metro area in the U.S., beating places like New York City, NY, and Los Angeles, CA. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Houston area’s foreign-born population grew 59 percent from 2000 to 2013.

LawnStarter’s analysis finds that the Houston area’s foreign-born population stood at 1,423,721 in 2013, representing 22.25 percent of the region’s total population. Just a year later, the foreign-born population had risen to 1,498,072, accounting for 23.08 percent of the area’s total population. To put that in perspective, the foreign-born population in the Houston area is larger than the entire population of the Jacksonville, FL, metro area, which has close to 1.42 million residents.

In a 2015 report, the Migration Policy Institute points out that Houston’s immigrant population isn’t just diverse racially and ethnically but also economically, with foreign-born workers ranging from doctors to construction workers.

Downtown Houston at Night

What’s Ahead?

Potter says that if the Houston area keeps producing jobs, the region will keep greeting more and more foreign-born residents as their neighbors.

“People who enter the United States legally and illegally want to work, so it is likely that as people immigrate to the United States, many of them will gravitate to Houston,” he says, “both because of work opportunities and because they may have friends or family in Houston, or because they are aware that there is a community in Houston that is likely to have some degree of cultural familiarity to them.”

Photo of Houston skyline used for graphic: Flickr/Norm Lanier

Other photos: Flickr/Thomas Hawk, Flickr/BPPrice and Flickr/Brandon DuBois